Kailash Ecovillage is in Portland, Oregon on 2 acres in a suburban neighborhood. They have 60 adult residents and 10 children. They’ve been established since 2007. The property was a former apartment complex.
Mission: Providing a sustainable, beautiful, and safe living environment for individual residents as well as the greater community.
Sustainability: organic gardening, composting, local food production, frugal use of energy and resources, alternative sources of energy and water, reducing, reusing, recycling, human-powered transport•
Safety - ensuring community safety through a stringent screening process, neighbors looking out for each other, and other measures
Respect - for other beings and our earth
Diversity - our community includes different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, incomes, ages, family types, sexual orientations, and spiritual paths
Note: This is the only community we've visited that had more than one or two people of color living in it. It also had the most diverse income streams.
Children and elders
Each others’ privacy
Vegan community gatherings and celebrations: maintaining a vegan community meal allows all residents to participate. We welcome individuals to share any other dietary restrictions.
Education: learning amongst ourselves and teaching the larger community about sustainability
Open-mindedness: welcoming new ideas
Experimentation: exploring new methods of sustainable urban living
Social Dynamics: Most of the residents are in their late 20s-mid-30s but the ages range from Early 20s-mid 70s. The children range from infant-16 yrs. Everyone other than the community managers has a job off the property or remotely online.
Because there are 70 people living in one complex that work outside of the home, interaction among the residents is only by choice. There are opportunities for frequent shared meals, events, various community clubs and groups offered that many are involved in and they meet for and meetings.
Infrastructure: The main building consists of 30 one-bedroom apartments and two 2-bedroom apartments. An adjacent house serves as living space and office for the community managers. It has an additional unit with 4 rooms with a shared kitchen, patio, and courtyard.
They have many shared areas, including a community room, shared laundry and mailroom, recycling and composting areas, bike storage and repair station, and a guest room.
Electricity: The manager/office house is solar-powered. The other residents pay a monthly bill for city power. Many pay a small premium fee for the energy to come from wind power.
Water: The rooftop water is diverted to on-site rain collection feeding the gardens. Resident housing water comes from the city.
Waste management: There is a composting toilet and urination station outside in the common space and a few practicing in-house collections. It can be very chilly and/or rainy outside, so using an outdoor toilet is not always pleasant. This may come as a surprise but, most people don’t like having a bucket of waste in their home, this is why most residents use low-flow toilets on the city water grid.
In Spring 2019 Portland’s Alternative Technology Review Committee approved their proposal for a specific design of a community ecological sanitation system modeled after new state-of-the-art building codes. In Summer 2019 they received the actual permit through the city of Portland for a composting toilet and urine diversion system for all their living units. This has allowed them to process human excreta (pee, poo) into sanitized compost and urine. This helps them to build better topsoil and has allowed ther gardens to become self-sufficient in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other trace elements. While there is a community system, Portland has also permitted systems for single-family dwellings.
Urination Station Schematic
Here is a recently published research article on their system, putting their project in a world context and highlighting its simplicity, low cost, excellent performance, and ability to enhance emergency preparedness. This equitable ecosan solution is designed, like bicycles, for anyone and anywhere on the planet.
Eventually, they plan to transition all flush toilets in the village to composting toilets. They are currently working out how this can best be accomplished. Once this is accomplished, all sewage from Kailash would be greywater.
Farming: Of those participating in the community garden and growing their own vegetables and fruits in individual plots, they are able to supplements 50-90% of produce that they eat.
The village all communicate via email and google docs. When someone is going to the store, they usually send an email out so that they can carpool and purchase in bulk to get a discount. This has proven to be very efficient.
Bees: The only animal husbandry practice is beekeeping. The honey will not be collected until they have a large, thriving population. We got a chance to attend an enlightening lecture on the value of bees, honey, and bee sting therapy for human health and the health of the entire planet.
Art & Music: Many residents go to local performances in the city together. Residents play instruments and jam together. There are monthly concerts in their community room.
The residents are encouraged to paint the front door of their apartments. They also have arts and crafts times in the community room. It seems that music and art are main staples in the lives of everyone we met.
Health: Of residents met, the majority appeared healthy. They used homeopathy, herbs, honey, along with modern medicine used for colds and other ailments. Our great friend, Cody, who lives here is an herbalist. She picks herbs and makes her own elixirs. She was gracious enough to show us how to make an elderberry elixir and let us film her. You can find that video here
Conflict Resolution: There is no specific guideline for resolving conflicts. Many residents choose to resolve conflicts through clear communication. Others just entirely stop interacting with those they have a conflict
The co-founders of the project have a laissez-faire attitude to the way it should operate. They feel if you supply the fertile place or foundation the rest will follow exactly as it should, or not…
Children: The children lead fairly typical western lives. Most go to school M-F around 8 am-3 pm. They do homework and play after school. There is a small playground for them and space for them to run around. They help with the garden on the weekends. There are no specific programs for them. The same laissez-faire attitude applies to this. The co-founders feel if parents want a program for the children, they should create one.
Highlights: The rental model is an affordable model that works for younger residents and all those with lower income levels. Most ecovillages require the residents to have some sort of financial cushion, living at Kailash is far more affordable. The rent is under $700, which in Portland is very affordable.
The group email system was an effective tool for sharing resources and information. It was to nice to see technology truly connecting people rather than disengaging them from the real world.
The community and individual plots make so much sense. Those who only want to help can just be a part of the community garden or if they only want to tend their own little plot, they can do that. or they can do both! The many options give this community easy access to affordable, healthy food. We also got to take part in processing the harvested food in the community room. We pickled, canned, dried, and froze harvested food.
Unique Features: This is a perfect middle ground between modern society and living completely off the grid and off the land. It’s not an easy transition to go from city comforts to complete off-grid life. But with places like Kailash, people get an opportunity to live more sustainably, form lasting relationships and learn new skills.
New Things Considered: The more people, the more anonymity. If a community as large as this wants a tighter family feel, individual residents need to make an intentional effort to get to know one another and plan events and activities that give them that opportunity.