Growth of eco-villages in France for those looking for a simple community life

Eco-villages, schoolboywhere people join a community to live together in an environmentally friendly way, has seen a surge in popularity over the past year as the experiences of Covid-19 and lockdown have inspired many to consider starting an alternative lifestyle.

The organization Co-operative Oasis, which gives advice to anyone wishing to create or join this type of community, claims to have seen the number of interested people triple in the last twelve months.

“When we started in 2015, there were only 50 schoolboy. There are now around 1,000 projects, of which around 600 are in progress,” explains Gabrielle Paoli, Deputy Director. “In 2017, we set up discovery stays for people to visit the centres, but we canceled most of them due to lack of interest. This year, one e-mail was enough for them all to be complete. Two years ago, we received €20,000 per month in our savings plan for investors. Now we have €100,000.

Permaculture lifestyle at the Ilot des Combes eco-place | Photo: Ilot des Combes

She says schoolboy vary enormously in size from two up to thirty families. Some are purpose built and others are in old buildings. Many are in the countryside, but they can also be in cities. It can only be a place of residence or an attached economic activity. Each community organizes itself differently. But they all meet certain criteria:

“They must want to lead a simple life in an ecological way and share an agreed amount of money, skills and equipment. They must produce part of their food and open up to the outside world. We realize it’s not for everyone, but we believe the more the better for society as a whole.

Ed Carr, British and Astrid Charra, French, and their eleven- and seven-year-old boys, Willem and Elio, lived in a bi-lingual schoolboyGrain&Sens in Boffres, Ardèche since January 2019. They are 11 adults and four children of six nationalities between them who share a property with several buildings and 8 hectares of land.

Between them, they rent lodges, lead classes, many of them in English for immersive language learning for children and adults, and grow some of their food, including organic cereals, which one of their members, an artisan baker, transforms into bread, sold on site and in local markets. Ed Carr also works outside the community as a photographer and Astrid Charra teaches English in local schools:

Eco-village

“Family” photo in their eco-village in Ardèche | Photo: Grain&Sens

“We lived in the south of France. I worked for IBM and Astrid was teaching. says Ed Carr. “We started to feel boxed in and wanted something more in life. We discovered that some friends felt the same way and we started looking for a place where we could shop together. »

It took time and only one in ten banks agreed to give them a loan, but eventually they were able to move in:

“It’s a very different way of life. It can be complex and intense to live with other people from different cultures and to have to come together to agree on many aspects of life. We are working harder and longer than before with work outside and inside the center and there have been a lot of ups and downs.

“It has nothing to do with the hippie colonies that these kinds of communities were once associated with. But there are many advantages. One of the highlights was the first lockdown where we were all together without outside visitors and we realized how strong we were as a group. It is very beautiful here and wonderful to have nature on our doorstep. Our eldest son loves birds and when he found an abandoned nest he was able to take care of the little ones and then free them.

“Many parents these days say they find it difficult to keep their children away from computer screens. We have almost the opposite, as ours are always outside and it is sometimes difficult to get them inside at mealtimes.

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