We are happy to introduce you to "Ökodorf Sieben Linden", a social and ecological settlement in the Altmark in the region of Sachsen-Anhalt (former East Germany).
The ecovillage Sieben Linden aims to provide a model for a future way of life, in which work, leisure, economy, ecology, urban and rural culture can find a balance. We are searching for the answers to the pressing issues of our time; looking for human-centred solutions in a place of creativity and learning. This model shows how humans can live more responsibly with nature.
Since 1997 the dream of a socio-ecological settlement became a reality near the small village of Poppau in the region Altmark, Germany. At the moment we own 82 hectares of land, which comprises of forest, housing (of varying types) and of gardens and farmland. Our aim is to show that human communities need not exploit or destroy nature but can make a positive contribution towards environmental quality. When designing the settlement consideration was given to wild animals and their habitats. Also, the biodiversity of the land has been enhanced for example by changing a pine monoculture to a diverse mixed woodland and by gardening organically.
The ecovillage is divided into “neighborhoods” with their own concepts and way of life. This creates the space for people with completely different ideals to co-exist. Our common goal is to question our habits of consumption: challenging the world-wide exploitation of humans, animals and the environment. The two existing larger neighborhoods are at either end of the spectrum: from the radical “club99” whose members are vegan and who cultivate their food using draught horse power (without machinery) and who share economic resources to the other neighbourhood ("81,5") which came together because the children are roughly similar ages.
The latter live in two modern low-energy houses using different co-operative structures for communal living (flat sharing, family, couples). Between 2001-2003 club99 built one of the first strawbale houses with planning permission in Germany. This was built completely by hand using only regional materials (timber, straw and clay) and recycled materials. “Strohpolis”, a strawbale-house, with more than 500 m² living space, was finished in 2004 and houses shared flats and single apartements. With "Strohpolis" the legalization of strawbales for Germany was reached. Since that 3 more strwabalehouses were built in Sieben Linden. Many inhabitants of Sieben Linden still live in caravans. This will become the stepping stone for people to establish new neighbourhoods.
2009 there are about 85 adults and 35 children living in the project, 10+8 of who live in a house in nearby Poppau. Sieben Linden has got its own water, and heat supply using wood and solar power. Electricty supply via photovoltaik is nearly a 100% (average!), hot water for shower, heating and kitchen is also supplied by solar panels on every roof.
So far there is a seminar-centre, jewellery-shop, small publisher, artists, consulting and trades people; including an organic vegetable-grower and joiner. It is hoped that self employed craftsmen, artists, architects, body-therapists will find ways to earn a living in Sieben Linden. The main focus of the next few years will be building houses, establishing a new seminar centre, self-sufficiency and creating economically viable enterprises.
We are a “community of communities” in which the inhabitants support each other but where each person gets the space he or she needs. With all the differences we constantly try to appreciate our common ground. This diversity regularly leads to discussions and challenges, especially when it comes to the keeping of animals. A lot of time is devoted to social processes in our community and we aim to foster trust amongst everyone. Thus we experiment with different models of group interaction (forums, supervision, talking stick etc.).
The following give us direction in our everyday lives:
Ecology: Sustainable settlements and self-perpetuating economic structures which work on closed-systems of energy and material cycles, creation and maintenance of biodiversity and wildlife habitats and landscaping using permaculture techniques.
Construction: Environmentally friendly and progressive building methods creating energy-saving buildings and using self build techniques that allow for the creation of sensuous living-spaces that accommodate diverse lifestyles (families, singles, flat sharing, etc.),.
Social life: Linking home life with work, integrating individuality with the community, fostering responsibility through honesty, consensus-oriented communication and decision-making and communal responsibility for child care e.g. kindergarten in the woods.
Economy: Decentralised economy with maximized self-sufficiency and local exchange. The development of agriculture, artisan crafts and small businesses with appropriate technology generally. A centre with facilities for seminars, social events and medical services.
Local Region: Cooperation with surrounding villages leading to the development of a long-term village and regional development plan. This will look at neighbourhood co-operation, exchange of technical services as well as local trade, environmental protection, ecotourism, networking with regional development initiatives and the setting up of producer-consumer groups.
Global responsibility: engagement for a sustainable future in various areas: criticism and direct political action against war, world trade structures, intensive animal-farming or nuclear power etc and the development of a political movement for a sustainable way of life.
Culture: Celebration of traditional feasts (Easter, Pasque, Thanksgiving etc) and the organisation of cultural events not only for the village but also the region (e.g. music festival in september). Encouraging meditation into daily life.