There is no one way to go off-grid: some people move to a rural area and start a homestead, others transition in increments to build a permaculture garden (and remain in the city), and still, others join a community to begin their off-grid lifestyle with others.
Here is a list of 8 off-grid communities that are “walking the walk” and offering inspiration to anyone, no matter where they are on their off-grid journey. We can all learn from these communities that continue to offer new, innovative approaches in permaculture and off-grid building.
But before we dive in, it’s important to note that many Off-grid communities have been around for decades. Many believe it is the best way to live an off grid lifestyle, where natural resources are spent within a community, instead of individually.
Even though communal living may not be your thing, there is a lot we can learn from looking at and studying these off-grid communities that are doing homesteading, permaculture, and resource-sharing right.
The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) started back in 1994, founded by a group of seven like-minded families in Occidental, Sonoma County, California.
The basis of OAEC is about living an ecologically sustainable lifestyle, instead of a capitalist, individually-focused one. This includes resource-sharing, which encompasses land and skills-sharing, too. It is a diverse community, with various skill sets, which grows its own food, provides its own water, and independently sustains and governs itself.
While the membership of OAEC is at capacity (as per the county zoning laws), guests are allowed to visit the Center and learn first-hand about intentional communities through retreats, or sustainable ecology at the on-site plant nursery.
If you’re considering building your own sustainable home, then the best resource is found at the Greater World Earthship Community, in Taos, New Mexico.
Here, the Earthship Community does not only create stunning homes from sustainable materials, but it also functions as a true off-grid community with its own ‘biotecture’ and emphasis on living sustainably in every way, including for food and energy.
For those looking to get first-hand education on building their own Earthship, internships are available. Others looking to simply get inspired by what is possible when with earth-friendly architecture (literally- mansions!) are invited to come for a self-guided tour of the community, with limited buildings available for visitors to see inside.
Village Homes is an intentional community, located on 70 acres near Davis, California. It is a suburb that was designed for sustainability, while not exactly off grid, it does deserve mentioning.
Village Homes has over 200 planned houses and nearly two dozen planned apartments to house residents. The entire community was designed by Mike Corbett, with a focus on being energy efficient as well as ecological.
The area has been designed with natural drainage by means of swales, creeks, and ponds to conserve rainwater, ‘edible landscaping’ with over 30 varieties of fruit trees or vines, and common gardening areas. Parking is located in a way in which to enhance the walkability of the neighborhood.
While the intentional community encourages sustainable living, that doesn’t mean everyone is a full-time homesteader: a large percentage of the community works at the nearby campus of the University of California.
They contribute to a fund that helps others maintain the beautiful gardens that make Village Homes so unique. One visit here leaves you wondering why not all subdivisions were built this way.
EarthHaven is (approximately) a 75-member ecovillage operating in northern California. The community is located on over 300 acres of land, where they grow their own food and work on projects with the indigenous Tslagi (Cherokee) and Catabwa nations, as this area is part of their tribal lands.
EarthHaven is a young and growing off-grid community, and memberships are currently open for those looking to be part of a democratic community where you contribute to a permaculture nursery, build a sustainable home, and establish solar infrastructure.
If you’re not sure about living permanently in an off-grid community, EarthHaven has a rental option to ‘get your feet wet’ and either learn about off-grid living from the experts or see if you’re a good fit with this particular community.
Findhorn Ecovillage is the largest intentional, sustainable human settlement in the United Kingdom. It operates in Findhorn, Scotland.
The initiative has been recognized as a UN Habitat Model for Best Practice for Holistic and Sustainable Living twice (1998 and 2018) and is listed in the UN Data Base for initiatives that provide an outstanding contribution to the quality of life in cities. Some pretty impressive accolades!
Instead of following other formats, Findhorn is paving the way with unique approaches. Here you can find energy-efficient homes that require fewer materials and insulation, and use recycled materials, (namely, beautiful whiskey barrels that make for some impressive siding!), wind turbines for off-grid electricity, and essential solar heating to keep folks warm in the winter.
I could keep tooting their horn, but you get the idea. Although the community is over 60 years old, one of the impressive aspects of this ecovillage is that it continues to evolve and change, offering new, innovative approaches as it matures.
Dancing Rabbit is a communal, off-grid community located in Missouri that’s been in operation for more than two decades.
Especially for those interested in starting off-grid living, but nervous about taking the plunge, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage hosts a 2-week visitors program to teach:
- Permaculture gardening
- Off-grid energy (beyond just solar)
- How to design natural buildings
- Self-governance…and more!
You can learn first-hand (and hands-on!) about some of the foundational elements of starting your own homestead, as well as the beauty of an off-grid community.
Ecovillage at Ithaca
Situated in Ithaca, New York State, this 175-acre ecovillage is a network of individual homes that work together in community to grow their own food.
Based on a philosophy of land stewardship, residents take time each week to work in their growing forests, farmlands, and gardens.
The community also has several outreach programs to teach others about permaculture and land restoration.
This ecovillage has been making a positive impact on the natural environment in Ithaca for over 20 years, restoring forests and woodland areas after human settlements had nearly destroyed them.
The Tribe Goa is an off-grid village in Goa, India with a mission to “re-wild” the world, starting right where they are.
The community is situated on the shoreline of the incredible Indian Ocean and initiatives of the village include protecting and restoring forests in India, using sustainable building methods, and encouraging biodiversity.
It operates as a profitable business (being a guest house and cafe for travelers – the local-style huts guests stay in are an example of a sustainable building), as well as an ecovillage that accepts volunteers to assist with the native-plant nursery or reforestation efforts.
These are just a few examples of the many off-grid communities there are, around the world making a positive change to restore the natural environment and live sustainably.
Do you know of any others? Send me an email to [email protected] and I’ll add them to this list.