While most of us are used to having most of our basic needs, such as electricity and water, “delivered” straight to our homes, we are unaware of the environmental impact these have on our planet. Moreover, in cases of electricity black-outs or problems in the water lines, we become painfully aware of our dependency on these utilities. One of the Eco Valley projects is to learn how to depend, not on man-made conveniences, but on what nature naturally and freely provides. Therefore, an important element of the Eco Valley project is the use of renewable energy and research for further alternatives regarding producing and consuming energy in an environmentally conscientious way.
Presently, our model village is not connected to any electric lines or sewage system. The fact that our community’s households only use electricity generated by local solar panels goes a long way towards reducing our ecological footprint as well as attaining long-term sustainability. Moreover, for heating houses and for heating water, residents use tiles stoves and wood burner boilers. For the past three years, the wood for these is harvested exclusively from our own forests which are managed and maintained by our forestry department. We cut the trees down in such a way that they are able to grow again from the stem left above the soil, creating a 5 year cycle of cutting down trees and renewed growth. All of this is done while making sure that the harvesting process is done in harmony with nature and the local habitat.
Although some of the facilities are still connected to water provided by the nearby village, most of the families are not using public utility water for any of their needs. Each building in the community has its own well from which residents and volunteers draw water for all of their daily needs, such as cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and showering. By using only well water, the amount of water consumed is significantly reduced, as naturally one respects water for which one has to work to collect in contrast with water that which freely runs through the tap.
Wastewater management is another field community members are trying to conquer. For this project, they chose a method that is not merely self-sustaining and cheap, but also completely environmentally friendly, odorless and in addition, can provide irrigation to the forests. The reed bed sewage system was put into operation in the summer of 2009. In collaboration with the German scientist, Professor Kichkut, they were able to create a sewage system which uses microorganisms in the soil to purify and return the water to nature. Laboratory tests, which were done few months after putting this system into place, confirmed that it was working perfectly and it has continued to do so ever since. The households are urged to use only ecologically friendly soaps, detergents and other cleaning supplies to ensure that all water which drains into the natural sewage system will be chemical free.
There is much more to accomplish when it comes to learning how to live completely independently from modern-day facilities. As we continue working on this project we hope to one day learn how to produce the community’s own electricity beyond the use of solar power. Moreover, we hope to completely disconnect ourselves from government supported water. Although there are some in the community who cook using solely wood stoves and ovens, many others are still dependent on gas that is purchased off-site. In the future, the aim is to cook using only wood or finding ways to produce gas for all the community members.