Quantifying the environmental impact of ecovillages and co-housing communities: a systematic literature review

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Local Environment, 2017, 22 (11), pp. 1358 - 1377
Issue Date:
2017-11-02
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© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Many intentional communities worldwide, such as ecovillages and co-housing communities, have explicit goals of living in an environmentally sustainable manner, and are taking conscious steps towards these goals in response to the widely discussed unsustainability of the global sociotechnical system. There are numerous claims from researchers and community members, in the academic and grey literature, that intentional communities are making significant improvements towards sustainability goals, particularly in terms of environmental impact. However, actual measures of progress, with evidence supporting these claims, are relatively scarce. This paper presents the findings of a systematic review of quantitative studies of the environmental impact of intentional communities, including comparisons with relevant “mainstream” communities. The review focused on the two indicators that are most commonly reported in studies of the impact of intentional communities–the ecological footprint and the carbon footprint. This review was undertaken as there is a lack of literature reviews that comprehensively compile existing quantitative studies about intentional communities. In total, the review identified 16 separate studies covering 23 communities and 30 footprint measurements, with publication dates ranging from 2000 to 2014. This is a greater number of studies than in any other literature review of this topic. Taken as a whole, these compiled studies provide strong support for claims of greater environmental sustainability within these communities, and reinforce the need for greater research and exploration of the role sustainability-oriented intentional communities can play in the transition to more sustainable sociotechnical systems.
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