Couple Working Towards Ecovillage Dream

Couple Working Towards Ecovillage Dream

(Susanna Borgelt, March 5, 2018)

Royal Oak, MI – Couple Oakland County couple Gaylyn and Karl Kaufman are gathering a group of motivated individuals to form a community that will develop into a two-location ecovillage.

The plans have been in the works for over five year since Gaylyn and Karl realized that they had a shared passion, got married and founded the Michigan Ecovillage (http://miecovillage.org/).

“We married [five] years ago and together we really have made this our life mission, life purpose and hopefully our life legacy,” Gaylyn said.

According to their website, an ecovillage is “Multigenerational intentional community integrated with a wellness center, an organic farm, using Consumer and Worker Co-ops as well as US DOL Registered Apprenticeships to deliver caring services to seniors, young families and children, demonstrating and providing educational programming on Climate Change mitigation, adaptation and migration strategies.”

The non-profit organization is now starting to form committees and meets at least monthly to learn about ecovillage success stories and discuss resources, such as biochar (pictured) that might be utilized in their own ecovillage. Gaylyn says that the meetings already have a community feel to them and she feels that the village is already forming in a communal sense.

“One person said at a meeting that we have no business calling it an ecovillage because we don’t have a place,” Gaylyn said, “But your village is who you spend your time with … We see a pathway to making this real. It is real already because we’re already forming community. And that’s really amazing. And it’d be so wonderful to have a location … I’m ready. I’m ready to move.”

The organization has always planned to have two campuses serving each other as an ecovillage system. One location would be urban, while the other would be in the country. The exact locations have not been pinned down, but they are looking to purchase some property as early as this year, and have been in discussion with other organizations in Detroit and Oakland County. One such organization they are working with is C2BE (http://www.c2be.org/) who specializes in creating co-ops in Detroit.

“We’ve been working with them and looking at Detroit,” Gaylyn said. “I’m hoping there will be some demographic studies and [research about] where we would put something like this in Detroit.”

According to Gaylyn, it goes without saying that their ecovillage would try to be as green as possible.

“In our dreaming, we are completely environmentally friendly,” she said.

When looking at renovating property in an urban setting, such as Detroit, she recognizes that there will have to be creative solutions to environmental issues that will take some innovation. Yet whatever property they do end up acquiring will just be the beginning of creating the village they want to have.

“We’re excited to have an incubator atmosphere,” Gaylyn said. “There’s an attitude of exploration. There are ideas that we want to try but we don’t have the resources for. But as a community, we can make that happen.”

When the Kaufmans first began Michigan Ecovillage, they were given a grant by Michigan State University to study what made ecovillages successful around the world. According to Gaylyn, there are two factors that have the potential of breaking up a well-intentioned ecovillage. The first is finances, and the second is the social dynamic.

“There’s many ways it can fall apart and often it’s the people personality thing. Either that or it’s the money,” Gaylen said. “You can’t have an ecovillage and then have people come and just want to be taken care of. Everyone has to contribute.”

An early question in many people’s minds, according to Gaylyn, is how they plan to make their ecovillage sustainable financially. While they know the ecovillage that works best will develop organically, they have a few inspired ideas of how to make sure that those involved are contributing in a way that keeps the whole community afloat.

“Only 10 percent of those who try to begin [an ecovillage] are actually successful,” Gaylyn said. “Often people are altruistic. They have this vision of living in harmony and a beautiful picture of what living in an intentional community could look like, but then the bottom line hits. It’s a really big deal – How are you going to make money? How are you going to sustain this?”

Karl, who is the executive director at The Apprenticeship Institute, has some creative ideas about how to train individuals to have skills in construction and healthcare (among other things) to ensure that the community supports the individual while the individual also supports the community.

Another way the group hopes to ensure financial sustainability is through the use of cooperative business – something they studied a lot about during their research period. Cooperative businesses don’t have owners, per se, so all the profits are divided evenly between the workers, and the workers run the businesses democratically.

With businesses like these, the Michigan Ecovillage hopes to create a place where individuals and families can stay their whole life, without having or wanting to move as they age. The community would all help take care of each other when they are very young and when they become old.

To that end, they are looking for all kinds of participants. The group anticipates that some will want to live in their country location; others will want to live in the urban setting. Some will want to be supporters from the outside of the village; others will want to be full-fledged village residents. Some will want to help build the dream, while others will move in to sustain it. What they need are people who want to work toward a better future.

“How can we create the more beautiful world we know is possible,” Gaylyn asks. “How can we make life beautiful and extraordinary on less?”

In the short term, the Michigan Ecovillage hope to put on more events and would love new volunteers to plan and have ideas for such events. Gaylyn said it is these kinds of activities where she sees the real need for community that is already developing among the Michigan Ecovillage.

“People are longing to be connected to people,” she said.

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