Cloughjordan Ecovillage

Cloughjordan Ecovillage: Modelling the transition to a low carbon society

IrlandaIrlanda
Year Founded:
1999
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Cloughjordan Ecovillage is a neighbourhood of some 100 adults and 35 children living in 55 low-energy homes. Through its renewable energy system, its well-insulated houses, its community farm, its green enterprise centre and its vibrant community, it models the transition to a low carbon society.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if communities could learn to make sustainability their key objective and to plan systematically and practically to achieve it
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Climate change is the greatest problem of our time. Yet many fail to understand the seriousness of the challenges facing us and what can practically be done to transition to a low-carbon society. Many hope that new technologies will resolve the problem but experts recognise that, to be successful, behavioural and lifestyle change is also required. This is best done through strong communities and society needs models from which to learn.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Cloughjordan Ecovillage builds practices of sustainability that can be replicated. These combine latest technologies such as our district heating system which emits no GHGs and uses no fossil fuels, our natural well-insulated homes, our waste recycling and water harvesting systems with behavioural changes such as car pooling, our community farm, our woodlands in which we planted 17,000 trees to encourage biodiversity and our dense community interdependencies and learning. Through these means, the ecovillage has achieved an ecological footprint of 2 gHa, the lowest measured in Ireland. As an educational charity, we run courses and tours to share our story, ensuring our practical lessons towards a low-carbon future are widely disseminated.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

An academic research project funded by the European Commission to identify the obstacles to and drivers of the transition to a low-energy Europe (milessecure2050.eu) analysed 1,700 local projects to identify successful examples. The 90 ‘anticipatory experiences’ initially identified were reduced to a smaller number of the most successful, partly through examining tweets to measure their impact. Cloughjordan Ecovillage was among the 23 finally selected. 753 tweets relating to Cloughjordan by 235 tweeters with a potential exposure of 923,182 readers were identified, making it the ninth most numerous in the sample, despite being in one of the smallest countries included.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Quantitative assessment of the Ecovillage’s impact includes its low ecological footprint. Impact can also be measured by the numbers who visited the project in 2014. 46 groups participated in our educational visits programme, with 750 persons attending. 6 national conferences on sustainability issues were held which 245 people attended, 12 educational courses were delivered which a further 260 people attended. Tours are given twice a week through the year and 520 people took them. Qualitative assessment includes winning awards such as a gold medal in the 2013 UN-backed Liveable Communities award in China, winning Ireland’s National Green Award 2012-2014 and first in the eco-initiative category of Ireland’s Pride of Place awards in 2014. Regular coverage in national media including half-hour TV progamme watched by 526,000 viewers, in top ten ratings for the year.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

With a target of 130 housing units, the Ecovillage is still developing. We depend on members' voluntary labour to achieve our full potential and run tours and courses. We plan a co-housing unit creating opportunity for young people and those of lower income. We plan a community building and are putting a process in place systematically to reduce our ecological footprint, and sharing the lessons learnt. We are working with 5 Irish universities to offer accredited courses on how to achieve a low-carbon society. All prize monies are invested in scaling up our activities to achieve greater impact
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Sustainable Projects Ireland, the not-for-profit developing the Ecovillage, raised capital through members’ contributions, site sales, loans and an ethical investor. Its principal assets are its sites of which 45 have yet to be sold. As an educational charity, its courses provide a modest income stream and initiatives such as Friends and Woodland Guardian schemes help raise funds. Other businesses are run independently helping ensure viability.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The project is a member of the Global Ecovillage Network and is closely associated with the Transition Towns movement, we interact regularly with these two networks, sharing similar ideals and collaborating in common projects. As Ireland’s only ecovillage, it offers the most comprehensive model in the country of an intentional community with sustainability as its guiding principle. As a citizens-led project, we are committed to the value of bottom-up responses to the challenge of climate change, complementing top-down approaches by national government and being a fertile source of learning.
Team

Founding Story

The founding members were involved in sustainable development at the end of the 1990s and were exploring ways to accelerate and normalise the sustainability agenda in Ireland. Our realisation was that, unless the many disparate technologies and practices of sustainability were brought together in one place, where people could visit and be inspired to replicate best practice in their own communities, we would not achieve the ambitious national and EU targets being set by directives. Our “Aha” moment was to decide to locate to a rural town and develop an eco-neighbourhood that demonstrates different approaches to sustainability and offers education that builds the resilience of communities across Ireland.

Team

Using a governance system modelled on ecosystems, the Ecovillage avoids a division between leaders and led. All members fulfil all roles on a voluntary basis and the board of directors rotates. Organised into Primary Activity groups (education, land use, site development) and 3 support groups with a regular coordination meeting bringing coherence to all activities. All members thus find the best roles to put their skills to use for the project.
About You
Organization:
Cloughjordan Ecovillage Ireland
About You
First Name

Davie

Last Name

Philip

About Your Project
Organization Name

Cloughjordan Ecovillage Ireland

How long has your organization been operating?

Project
Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Friends and family, Individuals, NGOs, National government, Other.

Supplemental
Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?

The Cloughjordan Ecovillage won a gold medal in the UN-backed Liveable Communities award (the ‘Green Oscars’) held in China in 2013, which are devoted to championing and rewarding sustainable development, quality of life and environmental best practice in communities around the world. We have won Ireland’s National Green Award three years in a row (2012-2014) and won first place in the eco-initiative category of Ireland’s Pride of Place awards in 2014. In 2012 a representative from the European Economic and Social Committee visited the Ecovillage and interviewed Davie Philip for the committee's Civil Society Prize, which the Transition Network won with the Cloughjordan Ecovillage as the Irish example of a community in Transition.

Where have you learnt about the competition?

I first heard about the contest on Twitter, then an e-mail from ‘Makers of More’ was sent to us at the ecovillage. My colleague Mick Kelly of GIY Ireland, who is an Ashoka fellow also mentioned that the Makers of More would be a good contest for the Ecovillage to enter.

Tell us about your partnerships:

We partner locally with the development committee in Cloughjordan and regionally with Tipperary County Council which has nominated us for national and international awards. Nationally we are part of the Irish Transition Network and the Irish Environmental NGO Network. In Europe we are part of a new network ECOLISE and globally we are engaged in the Transition and the Global Ecovillage networks.

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Our principal challenge is financial. Having survived Ireland’s most severe economic collapse in decades, we now have a proactive strategy to sell all remaining sites and draw in new members. Our impact depends on expanding our educational programme, so we are mounting a campaign in 2015 to attract more national and international groups, and are working with universities to offer accredited modules in the ecovillage.