Sustainability at the Communes

by Raven Cotyledon

Last week our community, Cotyledon, sponsored a talk by a researcher from the Czech Republic.  It’s been a strange few weeks at Cotyledon, with Swedish and Czech and Australian visitors coming one after another.

Our Czech visitor, Jan Blažek, gave a presentation on Eco-communities in Europe at a local artists space for us.  We decided to have some of the NYC area communities get a chance to respond to his talk and have representatives from Cotyledon (me), Ganas, and Arc38 (which is in the countryside a bit north of the city) there to react.

Jan Blazek

This set me to thinking about how the communes that I know of approach sustainability.

As I said in my part in the discussion following Jan’s presentation, Cotyledon began with a focus on food justice and urban agriculture. I have written about our relationship with Smiling Hogshead Ranch. Even though we are embedded in New York City, we are clear that we are concerned with working with nature and growing soil, plants, and food.  We have also become increasingly involved with the Extinction Rebellion–a movement to take radical action against climate disruption.

And we are one of the more urban of the communes.

The banner for the presentation

The rural communes have even more of a focus on agriculture and food production. I have seen the crops growing at East Brook, Twin Oaks, Acorn, Mimosa, Sandhill, East Wind, and Oran Mor. There are major dairy programs at Twin Oaks and East Wind and both Acorn and Rainforest Lab used to have lots of goats. (Sadly, both of these communities had to give up their goats.) While few of these communities are fully self sufficient, they grow a large amount of their own food. Most of them also dumpster, as do the folks at Compersia in DC and us at Cotyledon. Dumpstering takes food out of the waste stream.  I believe these things are also true at the Mothership and Rainforest Lab and Ionia, but I haven’t been to any of them. (Although there is a sweet video about making grape juice at the Mothership.)

The communes in Virginia helped set up Living Energy Farm, which is a demonstration site for fossil fuel free living. Cambia community also spends much of their time demonstrating ecological living, with many teaching exhibits and a passion for reaching out to young people.

At its core, the radical sharing involved in all communal living, creates sustainability by its very nature.

Kale at the Ranch

I see the communes as models for the sustainable world that we need to live in. Communities give us the chance to try things and see what works.

We may not survive climate change, but if we do, our learnings from the communities will be essential in recreating the planet.

eCo from Arc38 with Jan


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Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  


  • Acorn Community
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  • Aaron Michels
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  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
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  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish



Sustainability at the Communes

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