Credit: Currumbin Eco-Village
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Over 30 years ago, a wandering band of hippies led by a charismatic English professor called Stephen Gaskin picked out a plot of land in Tennessee, USA. Pooling their resources, they bought the land, put their rainbow-coloured buses into park and started building houses.
"The Farm", as it became known, was perhaps the first dedicated eco-village - a low-impact housing development. But these days, eco-villages are springing up like grass-shoots after rain.
Fuelled by issues such as climate change and a growing environmental consciousness, there are now hundreds of eco-villages around the world ranging from the Eco-village at Ithaca in upstate New York to the remote rural settlement of Findhorn in Scotland.
There are also dozens across Australia. And although these eco-villages differ in size and flavour, they are all based on three key principles: the communities must be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable.
"We're heading down a path where we need to make a change as a community, as a species, and we need to live sustainably," says Lou de Leeuw, head of Ecobusiness Consultants and director of Aldinga Arts Eco-Village, a sustainable development on the outskirts of Adelaide that started in 2001.
"And some of the easiest ways are to have a house and a lifestyle that are sustainable."
Peter and Jan Taplin never considered themselves to be particularly 'green'. The Queensland couple recycled where possible, avoided using plastic bags and tried to conserve water, but for the most part they were ignorant of their environmental footprint. That is until they bought a plot of land, built a house and moved into the Ecovillage at Currumbin in south-east Queensland.
"We weren't particularly environmentally minded before buying here but since we have it's completely changed our focus and everything about the way we live for the better," says Jan who works as a nurse at the John Flynn Hospital.