Living sustainably and responsibly is an ideal not often found in whole families, and much less often found in whole communities. However, with a vibrant and non-exploitative social structure actively building on the principles of sustainable development, the innovative community of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is growing stronger and more sustainable every day.
As summed up beautifully on the Dancing Rabbit (DR) Ecovillage website, DR is “a diverse range of people living ecologically sound lives in a community that truly serves as an example of positive human action within the natural world.” Offering a healthy alternative to the typical US social structure framed in materialistic commercialism, DR sets a trail-blazing example of eco-conscious sustainable development in action.
Dancing Rabbit Offers Sustainable Development in Action
At Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, sustainable development is focused primarily on ecological impacts. Occupying 280 acres of rolling hills in northeastern Missouri, DR purchased the land in 1997 with a vision of building a sustainable village for 500 to 1,000 residents. Today, deep into planning, developing, and implementing the DR community structure, over 70 residents agree to follow ecological covenants and sustainable development guidelines drafted initially in 1997.
A renewable-energy micro-grid supplies the village of over 30 energy-efficient homes built from reclaimed lumber and natural building methods such as strawbale and cob. With residents typically using less than 10% of the US average electricity consumption, DR is now a net exporter of renewable energy. Three biodiesel vehicles are shared among the residents, who typically drive less than 7% of the US average. Food production is integrated into village life, as well, with DR residents eating ever-increasing amounts of home-grown and local, organic, and in-season foods.
A model for social change as well as sustainable development, DR members share the costs of common spaces, food, transportation, and more. Some members are employed by the community non-profit organization, or have jobs in the DR bar and restaurant, bed and breakfast. Others work on the farm, or in the construction of new homes. An internal economy is supported by a community currency, called Exchange Local Money (ELM). Bartering is also a widely accepted practice in the village.
Dancing Rabbit Sustainability Guidelines
Governing life within a framework of eco-conscious sustainable development principles is handled at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage by means of a legal document signed by all residents. Enforcement of “ecologically acceptable behavior” is driven by the simple fact that all residents agree to abide by The Dancing Rabbit Sustainability Guidelines, briefly outlined as follows:
Dancing Rabbit is committed to working in the following ways to make itself a sustainable system.
• Dancing Rabbit will look holistically at the issues of sustainability to create a sustainable culture that takes into account all impacts of its actions and acts to preserve the Earth for the future.
• Dancing Rabbit will strive to rely only upon renewable resources, and to use them at a rate less than their replacement.
• Dancing Rabbit will try to understand and minimize its negative impact on global ecological systems.
• Dancing Rabbit will attempt to preserve and rebuild healthy ecosystems and have a positive impact on biodiversity.
• Dancing Rabbit will try to create a closed resource loop where byproducts are reintegrated as useful resources, thus attempting to minimize waste products, especially those toxic or radioactive.
• Dancing Rabbit will try to avoid exploiting people and other cultures.
• Dancing Rabbit will strive to achieve negative population growth from reproduction.
Recognizing that “confusion and even argument as to what these broad statements really mean,” DR offers a detailed Sustainability Guidelines Explanations section in the legal document that all residents must sign. Signing their name to this contract, members agree to the final statement:
As a member of Dancing Rabbit I have read and understand the above and agree to help Dancing Rabbit work toward these goals. I agree to take these ideals into account when making decisions for Dancing Rabbit and for myself while a member of Dancing Rabbit.
Sustainable Development Through Diversity
In all of nature, sustainable development is strongly promoted through respect for diversity. With a large portion of their land reserved as natural habitat for wildlife, DR recognizes the need to revitalize regional wildlife biodiversity. Native plants are being reintroduced into the grasslands as members help to restore their land to its “precolonial ecology.” Over 10,000 trees have also been planted, stabilizing the riparian zone and providing a future sustainable source of wood for the Dancing Rabbit community.
Human diversity is also an important element of sustainable development, and DR Ecovillage generously promotes this principle. Allowing for economic diversity, not only is the development of co-housing and cooperatives encouraged, but lease rates and membership dues are also kept low, and DR does not charge members a buy-in fee.
Always actively seeking new members, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage encourages anyone interested in learning more to come and get involved. As stated on its website, “We enjoy sharing discoveries and ideas of sustainable living with people who have a wide variety of lifestyles. If you are interested in Dancing Rabbit, you have lots of options: subscribe to our blog, arrange a visit, or come do a work exchange stint. We are actively seeking new members to share our lives and goals. Together we can build our dreams!”
Check out the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage YouTube Video, “Who is Dancing Rabbit?”
Picture credits: All images © Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage