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Sustainable development principles in a community setting: A case study of O.U.R. Ecovillage, British Columbia, Canada



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The purpose of this study is to improve understanding of how (a) principles of sustainable development (SD) have been implemented in an ecovillage setting, as well as (b) to analyze internal and external challenges faced by the ecovillagers in their pursuit of sustainable living. The specific research objectives of this study are these: i) examine the sustainable practices of an ecovillage according to Agenda 21 principles; ii) document key and unique elements of the ecovillage approach to SD; iii) identify challenges faced by O.U.R. Ecovillage residents in SD practices implementation and recognise opportunities to improve the implementation of SD principles in the ecovillage. To meet these objectives the study was carried out in one of the most developed ecovillages in Canada - O.U.R. ecovillage, located in the Cowichan Valley region, British Columbia. Multiple research methods that were used included: interviews, focus group, participant observation, research photography and document analysis. Research findings revealed numerous innovative sustainable practices implemented in the ecovillage. Discussed areas include shelter provision, governance, construction practices, environmental infrastructure, human resource development, planning in disaster prone areas, land-use management as well as energy and transportation systems. Many processes initiated by the ecovillage are only in the experimental stage and require improvement. However, O.U.R. Ecovillage is an important educational center for sustainability due not only to specific practices but also its holistic approach to SD that balances the needs of individuals, community, and the environment. The research also presents various internal and external challenges that obstruct SD of the community. Main difficulties faced by the community throughout its development are related first to strong individualistic cultural values dominant in western society that contradict many sustainable practices applied in the ecovillage. A second obstacle to SD in the community is posed by the inflexibility of regulatory authorities that greatly complicates implementation of innovative holistic practices. Lessons learned from O.U.R. Ecovillage might assist other groups in Canada and abroad to proceed with local initiatives towards sustainability.



ecovillage, sustainable community, sustainable development



Master of Environment and Sustainability (M.E.S.)


School of Environment and Sustainability


Environment and Sustainability


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