Our visit to the New Future  eco-village

Category: Self Sufficient Communities, South Africa

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What if you could live in the perfect eco village, where you own nothing, but you are happy. Where there is a great sense of community and connection with other people, and where your cost of living, is less that half, of what it normally is, but your standard of living is much higher, than what you could ever afford on your own…

Me and my wife are digital nomads, we own an online e-commerce store, and our goods are kept at a warehouse and shipped directly to our customers by a third party. So, we are free to  travel and work from anywhere. We recently visited this one Establishment called New Future eco-village, this is an account of our experience

We flew to Cape Town and then took an Uber to the village. We were welcomed by the owners, and then shown our house, and we dropped off our language in our house. We were taken for a tour around the village, and shown where everything was and he explained how everything  works. The village was set up very nicely, with ten tiny homes, arranged around a central community centre. We were each issued, with an RFID ring, that is used to access various shared facilities and services in the village.

It was one o’clock in the afternoon, and we planned to still get some work done. We took our laptops and went to the co-working space. There, we each got our desk, chair, large monitor, keyboard and mouse and WiFi details. The internet was super-fast and reliable as it was connected via StarLink satellite internet. There was free tea, coffee, cold water and fruit. There were about 10 other people also working there and we met a few, and had a few interesting conversations.

After four hours, of productive work, we were done working for the day. So, we put away our laptops in our house, which was just about 20 m walking distance away. Then, we decided to go for a workout in the gym, in the community centre. We know how bad sitting behind a computer each day for long hours is for the body, and the importance of getting some movement and exercise daily. The gym was well equipped, with exercise machines, weights, yoga mats, a yoga studio, bathrooms and everything one could want in a gym. There were also some group classes listed for Yoga, Thai Chi and Aerobics that we planned to join later in the week.

After the work and exercise, we were quite hungry. So, we went to the central parking lot where there were a few cars and other vehicles we could choose from, from a car sharing pool. We got into a Nissan Leaf full electric vehicle. I scanned my RFID chip and was able to start the vehicle. One pays per kilometre driven, it is all automatically calculated and deducted from the pre-paid amount we paid on booking. In any case, because the vehicles are shared, electric and charged by solar power, the cost per km is about fifty percent cheaper if compared with owning your own petrol-powered vehicle. We drove to the closest grocery store and got all the food we wanted, which should probably last us for the next week. We did not buy any eggs, honey, or vegetables as that was all available at the village from their community garden.

When we got back, we parked in the parking lot, and carried our groceries to our house and  unpacked it. Each house has a well-equipped kitchen, where each couple or individual makes their own food each day. I think it works better, that each house cooks for themselves, as each person has different diet preferences and schedules. Each Saturday afternoon there is a shared lunch, where everyone comes together and eats together. It is also possible, and nice to cook in the shared kitchen with others, there is enough cutlery and stoves for everyone. It is just important to clean up after yourself after each meal.

After dinner, we decided to chill a bit in the lounge, in the community centre, there are comfy coaches, bean bags, musical instruments such as guitars and a piano, a fireplace, a pool table and a library. I saw some interesting books there, I chose one that I wanted to read, and I will bring back one of my books, later on and leave it for somebody else. We spend a few hours there reading, talking and meeting a few other people.

Walking back to our house and inside our house, I had no fear or concern about our safety. Everyone that enters the premises’ identity is known,  there is good security measures in place, and everyone knows each other, that lives here. The minimum period people are allowed to book here is two months, most people stay a lot longer, and quite a few stays permanently. The reason for this, is that people living there, can get a chance to get to know each other, and that it is not too disruptive with people coming and going too frequently.

The next morning was Saturday morning. So, we woke up, and made some coffee in our house, and our morning smoothie. We took our clothes with us to the central laundromat, again just scanning my RFID tag ring to start the washing machine. There are three washing and drying machines, more than enough for all ten houses to share.

Saturday morning is always community work hours. People can choose to work 4 hours per week, or to pay extra each week and not do any work. Most people choose to do the work, as it is a fun time to work together, with other people, and get to know people better. Most people also enjoy getting stuff done and improving their community. There is lot of variety of work, and it changes each week. When we come together, we decide together who does what. Some of the work for example is painting the house and gate, working in the community garden, general cleaning and sweeping, helping with building projects, and so forth.

After work, a delicious lunch is prepared, and we all enjoy it together and have a good time and fun conversations. Most of the ingredients of the meal, comes from the community garden. Preparing lunch, is one of the options for the shared work hours. After lunch, there is normally free time or people play games together, like volleyball or touch rugby or go for a bike ride.

We decided to go for a bike ride. As it is a beautiful area with lots of nice bike routes. So, we went to the shared electric bike pool in the parking lot. We scanned our RFIDs and unlocked the bikes. Again, we pay per time, per hour, and per km. It is all automatically calculated and deducted from the amount we pre-paid. A lot cheaper and a lot less hassle than owning, maintaining, transporting, and storing our own bikes. We unplugged the fully charged e-bikes and went for a beautiful bike ride.

On Sunday mornings there are optional community meetings and learning time. Everybody meets in the Yoga studio, where we have speakers and presentations, we discuss various topics and learn from each other. Just some of the topics discussed are NVC (Non-violent Communication), Permaculture, sociocracy, spirituality, and so forth. All very interesting topics and great to learn from each other, and great speakers.

After the meeting, we go on a tour through the facility and get shown all the details. A few other visitors also join us. First, is the electrical utility room. Inside the room are massive 50 kW inverters and a 300 kWh battery bank. All the power, to all the houses, is provided by a large central solar power system. It was more cost-effective, to invest in one large central system, than 10 smaller systems in each house. The solar panels are mounted on roofs of all the houses, but the DC power from the panels, is brought to the central power station.

The village requires quite a lot of power, as everything is electrified, the cooking, heating of hot water and transportation. Cooking is done on induction stoves, which is much better, safer, and healthier than gas stoves. A low power 800W kettle is used to boil water for tea, and a 2 kW element is used for water heating for the bathrooms. It is nice to know, that all the energy we use in the village comes from 100% renewable energy and the cost is less than half of what Eskom charges.

Next, we go to the water processing room. Water is pumped out of a borehole on the property in a water tank, and from there, it goes to the water processing room, where it is filtered, and UV light treated and then distributed to each house. Natural, clean, fluoride and chlorine-free.

Next, we visited the wastewater treatment plant, here all the wastewater is treated and cleaned. After treatment the nutrient-rich water, is used to water all the fruit and nut trees on the property. There is no need to create complex and dangerous systems, to create biogas as there is more than enough solar power and battery storage to meet all the energy needs of the village.

Next, we visited the recycling area. All houses are required to separate their waste into 6 different categories, Plastic and metals, cartons and paper, biodegradable waste, rest waste, glass and electronics. Plastic is separated into different types of plastic then shredded, melted and cast into new useful products. These products are then sold online to create extra income for the person handling the recycling. The paper and cartons are also shredded and then compressed into pallets which are used for cooking in the community kitchen. The biodegradable waste is composted and used in the community gardens.

Monday morning, we spent a few hours again working on our online business, the afternoon I decided to build a shoe rack. We take off our shoes, to keep our house clean, but there is no place to put our it. So, I went to the village workshop, there is a shared tool library where one can use, any tools that you want. Tools are checked out to a person’s name if removed from the workshop. I discussed what I wanted to build with the workshop manager, and got some old pallets, that I used to build the shoe rack. It took a few hours to build and came out really nice and useful.

The evening we spent on the couch, in front of the TV, watching YouTube in our house. Each house also has shared internet from the StarLink internet connection. The community cat, sat on my lap and kept us company.

We spend the next two months working, living and playing here. It was one of the best times of our lives. We met really interesting, amazing people that we will remember for the rest of our lives. For now, we are off to our next destination and adventure. We are seriously considering settling down permanently in this village after our travels.

During our visit, our living expenses were really low, much lower, than when we rented our own house and had to buy and own everything we wanted to use. It makes so much more sense to share resources and only pay if we use them. We also never felt more connected to other people, so much better than when we were in our own house and were isolated from other people. We still had our privacy, alone time, and our own schedule, but there was so much more opportunity to connect with other people when we wanted to.

This was all imagined by me of how an ideal eco-village would work in my opinion. Apologies for any disappointment. But if you think this would be great and would like to make it a reality, please give me your feedback and ideas, or even if would like to support this or be involved in any way please send me a message at: +27 82 940 1858 (SMS or WhatsApp)
Johann Fritz

Recommended further reading

Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community – Kindle Edition

Finding community is as critical as obtaining food and shelter, since the need to belong is what makes us human. The isolation and loneliness of modern life have led many people to search for deeper connection, which has resulted in a renewed interest in intentional communities. These intentional communities or ecovillages are an appealing choice for like-minded people who seek to create a family-oriented and ecologically sustainable lifestyle—a lifestyle they are unlikely to find anywhere else.

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However, the notion of an intentional community can still be a tremendous leap for some—deterred perhaps by a misguided vision of eking out a hardscrabble existence with little reward. In fact, successful ecovillages thrive because of the combined skills and resources of their members.

Finding Community presents a thorough overview of ecovillages and intentional communities and offers solid advice on how to research thoroughly, visit thoughtfully, evaluate intelligently, and join gracefully. Useful considerations include:

  • Important questions to ask (of members and of yourself)
  • Signs of a healthy (and not-so-healthy) community
  • Cost of joining (and staying)
  • Common blunders to avoid

Finding Community provides intriguing possibilities to readers who are seeking a more cooperative, sustainable, and meaningful life.

Diana Leafe Christian is the author of Creating a Life Together and editor of Communities magazine. She lives at Earthhaven Ecovillage in North Carolina.

Ecovillages around the World: 20 Regenerative Designs for Sustainable Communities – Kindle Edition

A beautiful, full-color book showcasing 20 best practice designs from ecovillages around the world

• Features well-established ecovillages such as Findhorn in Scotland or Auroville in India and newer initiatives such as Hua Tao in China

• Highlights the unique features of each project and their solutions to the global social and environmental challenges that confront us

• Includes more than 300 full-color photographs, maps, and diagrams

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In 2015, the United Nations introduced 17 sustainable development goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. Aligning perfectly with the practices of ecovillages around the world, these initiatives show that ecovillages and sustainable communities are leading by example as we move into a future focused on partnership, environmental protection, prosperity, and peace for all life and the planet we live on.

Offering a visual tribute to the work ecovillages do to alleviate climate change, social conflict, and environmental damage, including more than 300 full-color photographs, maps, and diagrams, this beautiful book highlights 20 best practice designs from ecovillages around the world to show how we can live lightly on the planet no matter where on earth we live, in all climate zones and cultures. It demonstrates how ecovillages have already achieved the climate goals all of us are now striving toward through practical lifestyle changes that promote peaceful and joyful coexistence both among people and between people and nature. Far from being only aesthetic choices, these changes give an increased quality of life, healthy homes, delicious organic food, playful interdependence, a new spiritual connection to our living planet, and much more. Through their regenerative, sustainable, and peace-promoting practices, ecovillages continue the culture of traditional village living in a modern way that addresses the critical challenges of our time.

The book features the following 20 ecovillage projects: Hurdal Ecovillage and Hurdal Sustainable Valley, Norway; Svanholm, Denmark; Permatopia, Denmark; Solheimar, Iceland; Lilleoru, Tallin, Estonia; Findhorn, Scotland; Sieben Linden, Germany; Tamera, Portugal; Damanhur, Italy; Torri Superiore, Italy; Kibbutz Lotan, Israel; Sekem, Egypt; Chololo, Tanzania; Tasman Ecovillage, Australia; Narara, Australia; Hua Tao Ecovillage, China; Auroville, India; Ecovillage at Ithaca, New York, USA; Huehuecoyotl, Mexico; Ceo do Mapia, Brazil.

Tomorrow 3.0: Transaction Costs and the Sharing Economy (Cambridge Studies in Economics, Choice, and Society)  – Kindle Edition

A beautiful, full-color book showcasing 20 best practice designs from ecovillages around the world
With the growing popularity of apps such as Uber and Airbnb, there has been a keen interest in the rise of the sharing economy. Michael C. Munger brings these new trends in the economy down to earth by focusing on their relation to the fundamental economic concept of transaction costs. In doing so Munger brings a fresh perspective on the ‘sharing economy’ in clear and engaging writing that is accessible to both general and specialist readers. He shows how, for the first time, entrepreneurs can sell reductions in transaction costs, rather than reductions in the costs of the products themselves. He predicts that smartphones will be used to commodify excess capacity, and reaches the controversial conclusion that a basic income will be required as a consequence of this new ‘transaction costs revolution’.

The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living

Imagine a year without spending – or even touching – money. Former businessman Mark Boyle did just that and here is his extraordinary story. Going back to basics and following his own strict rules, Mark learned ingenious ways to eliminate his bills and discovered that good friends are all the riches you need.

Encountering seasonal foods, solar panels, skill-swapping schemes, cuttlefish toothpaste, compost toilets, and – the unthinkable – a cash-free Christmas, Boyle puts the fun into frugality and offers some great tips for economical (and environmentally friendly) living. A testament to Mark’s astounding determination, this witty and heart-warming book will make you re-evaluate your relationship to your wallet.

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