Sustainability is a hot topic in communal living, but I think that there are several different types of sustainability. I’d like to take this post to explore some various levels of sustainability.
The first level is what many people think of when they talk about sustainability, what some people call ‘eco-sustainability’. Living Energy Farm is an example of a commune focused on eco-sustainability, as is the Stillwater Sanctuary, but even Twin Oaks, which has never tried very hard to be eco-sustainable, has a very low carbon footprint. With the climate crisis we are in now, this type of sustainability is very important.
But it isn’t the only level of sustainability in the communes. Twin Oaks is a model for a very different type of sustainability, the ability of a community to sustain itself, which Twin Oaks has done for fifty years. Not only has Twin Oaks lasted, but it has provided a model that has influenced other long lasting communes (some of which have been around now for twenty to forty years) .
There’s also a third level of sustainability to community living. Dancing Rabbit (which is not an income sharing community but is an interesting model for community living and sustainability on many levels) refers to this as ‘inner sustainability’. It is not enough to live ecologically sustainably and to sustain the community. It is also important to sustain the individual members of the community.
There are many tools to do this. Two that are practiced at some of the communes are Transparency Tools and the Clearness process, but sometimes people use things like meditation, Nonviolent Communication, and Re-evaluation Co-counseling as well. Some of this shades into interpersonal sustainability, where forms of conflict resolution are often helpful as well. Good communication is an important part of sustainability.
So in community, we have the opportunity to learn to sustain ourselves as well as our interpersonal relationships, and the community as a whole as well as living in a way that is ecologically sustainable. And this is how we create a sustainable world.