Being Green – Intentional Communities

Hi Folks:

I was going to talk about intentional communities last week but life got in the way.  Actually, last Friday night Marcia and I were at an open meeting to discuss Victoria’s Official Community Plan.  In a way this fits in as sustainability, green building, water and energy are key issues for any OCP.  Vancouver has recently gone through a similar process, as are other cities around the world.

A topic like ‘intentional communities’ is vast, certainly more than can be contained in one writing (even if that writing was a book), and the idea of an intentional community means many different things to many different people.  However, since I’m writing this I get to define some of the parameters at least, and others are most welcome to continue the discussion in the comments below.  Let’s break this down into its components: intention and community.

Intention means to do ‘something’ deliberately.  One definition of intention is:



1: an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions; “his intent was to provide a new translation”; “good intentions are not enough”; “it was created with the conscious aim of answering immediate needs”; “he made no secret of his designs” [syn: {purpose}, {intent}, {aim}, {design}]”

There are two ways of looking at a definition of ‘community’.  One is that it comes from two base words – ‘com’, which is Latin for ‘with’, and ‘unity’, which infers a oneness of purpose, idea or design.  The other uses the Latin word ‘commun’ as a base, which means ‘in common’.  Either way, a community is a group that share a common purpose, common ideas, objects or lifestyle.  Incidentally, ‘pan’ comes from the Latin for ‘bread’, so company or companion means one with whom you share bread.

In any event, an intentional community then is a group of people who have a specific purpose of coming together to share in some common goal.  It may be to share energy, food, religious or cultural values or other attributes, but since this blog is primarily about sustainability in myriad forms, I’m going to filter my topic through that sieve.  We also need to consider what a community is – a town, a city, a neighbourhood, a rural community, or all of the above?  And what criteria should we consider – water, energy, food, transportation, sustainability, mixed-income, mixed housing, cohousing, commercial opportunities… more?

I don’t even know the name of the first intentional community I ever heard about (Findhorn was the second one for me).  All I really remember is that they had invented what was known locally as the ‘green money’ system.  This was long before being ‘green’ became in vogue, and since the government generally frowned on groups or individuals developing their own currencies (there are exceptions now, such as the Toronto Dollar or Salt Spring Dollar programs), instead every person in this community had an account.  Labour or products within the community could be charged in ‘green’, which basically meant that one person’s account was credited and the other’s debited.  For an auto mechanic, for example, one might pay for the parts in cash and the labour in green.  Seemed like a good idea to me.

The next idea for an intentional community I heard about was the Bamberton project on eastern Vancouver Island.  Started in 1988 the project had both wide support and some opposition; in some ways it may have simply been ahead of its time.  Guy Dauncey used to have a list of the covenants and other materials related to this community but unfortunately it’s been removed from his site.  The project was begun by David Butterfield and others at the Trust for Sustainable Development in Victoria, and while it was unsuccessful1, it did become a springboard for the later projects like Shoal Point in Victoria and the community of Civano in Arizona.

I got to thinking about this idea again recently because one of the members of the Advisory Board for the Trust for Sustainable Development, Doug Makaroff is currently involved with a similar project called Living Forest Communities.  They’re currently working on a project north of Victoria called Elkington Forest, and they’ve also started the Everwoods project on Cortes Island.

That got me thinking about other intentional communities.  I’ve written before about Greensburg, KS, a small farming town that was all but obliterated by a class 5 tornado, and rebuilt as a model ‘green’ town.  Then I went looking through my more than 14,000 bookmarks, an organizational project in itself that I dread taking on!  Here are some of the links I found (in no particular order):

That’s probably enough to start with.  The last link in this category I’m going to leave to Enrique Peñalosa – the former mayor of the city of Bogota, Columbia who achieved a transformation in that city nothing short of miraculous.  If you have any more ideas to share, leave them below!  Community is all about involvement, after all.

Okay, the links for this week include:

That’s it for this week.  See you next Friday!

P.S.  Assuming that you have your own garden, how about this: How to Garden with Urine: Make your own fertilizer for free

I’ve heard that another development company has taken over the Bamberton area. Although their plans will certainly differ from the original, I trust they’ll maintain at least the same spirit in their design.

4 Replies to “Being Green – Intentional Communities”

  1. @OKL

    Mike, extensive list. Thanks for putting this together and for sharing my question: how much does a business need to believe in sustainability to do it well? Thanks for the read here!

    1. Mike Nelson Pedde Post author

      You’re welcome, and thanks for coming by! Look for something new in the ‘Green’ category every Friday!


  2. Doug Makaroff

    Thanks for the connection and linkage to Living Forest Communities, Mike. I would love to find out more about you and your blog. We are just about ready to launch the Elkington Forest proposal. We are closely connected to Ann Mortifee's Trust for Sustainable Forestry.

    My company, Living Forest Communities, is building a 1000 acre conservation community called Elkington Forest, where 85% of the forest is protected by TLC, 7% of the land is for food production, and 77 home sites are clustered in a series of mixed-use hamlets on 8% of the land. The Elkington Forest site is 10 minutes south of Shawnigan Lake, and 17 minutes north of the Veteran’s Memorial Parkway in Langford. We have the support of many NGOs and environmental advocacy groups.

    I will be cross blogging to this site. Again, thanks.

    1. Mike Nelson Pedde Post author

      Doug: Thanks much for dropping by! I certainly applaud all that the work that you and the others involved with the Living Forest Communities are doing. It’s worth bringing projects such as this into the spotlight!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.