Ireland’s first ecovillage pioneers a self-sustaining community unlike any other

Marianne Foody

Image Credit: Marianne Foody

The idea for Ireland’s first ecovillage, Cloughjordan, was born in 1999 with the establishment of educational charity Sustainable Projects Ireland.

Since then Cloughjordan has grown considerably and now contains 17,000 trees planted by village members, more than 50 low energy homes and work units, a solar and wood powered community heating system, an eco-hostel and community farm where produce is grown and shared.

Residents were brought together in this pioneering project because of their wish to live sustainably in an ever-changing environment and this has resulted in a community that is largely self-governed and self-sustained.

From building houses, to natural heating, to bread making, to vegetable produce, Cloughjordan’s sustainable living practices have led to an ecological footprint of two hectares – the lowest ever measured in Ireland.

Davie Philip is one of the founding members of the village and strongly believes that in order to change our common goal from GDP to sustainability, we must understand the concept of ‘systems-thinking’, that is, how everything is connected.

‘’We live in an urban, mobile, consumer society, based on industrial scale production of goods and services within a growth economy. The dominant free-market political economy underpinning this socioeconomic system is neoliberalism and capitalism; but we cannot have endless growth on a finite planet’’.

In a recent talk, Philip spoke to DCU students about the changes that are required within the collective thinking around sustainability and environmental issues.

He spoke about the fact that 25 large corporations are responsible for the majority of our global emissions – Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell being among the worst offenders.

He also spoke about the future of climate research, the importance of utilising technology and techno-optimism – renewable energy use, carbon capture and storage and electric vehicles being some examples.

‘’We can’t assume we will be rescued by new technologies, but we prefer to treat the challenges as techno-scientific ones: this is techno-optimism’’.

With regards Cloughjordan itself, Philip maintained that the economic crash in 2008 took its toll on the community as 50% of deposits that had been on sites were lost as well as all of the staff working there.

However, the community itself is still striving to provide for and support each other with all decisions being made via a consensus model.

The focus for the future of this ecovillage is promoting the involvement of more young people through co-housing schemes and continuing its research and education into sustainable and environmentally conscious living.

Marianne Foody

Image Credit: Marianne Foody