That is according to a new Vital Signs Update from environmental researchers at the Worldwatch Institute.

Erik Assadourian, research associate and update author, said: “Many people think living in an ecovillage would be a life of sacrifice.

“But research shows that residents have lowered their ecological footprints and financial costs and maintain closer bonds with their neighbours, all of which translates to a less stressed, more fulfilling lifestyle.”

Worldwide, 379 ecovillages are registered with the Global Ecovillage Network, which defines them as urban or rural communities of people trying to live in a sustainable way.

The communities share solutions to lower their ecological impact, including food co-operatives, community-supported agriculture programs and carpooling.

Mr Assadourian believes it will be the way of the future.

“Planned communities tend to evoke over-developed suburban neighbourhoods and mini-malls,” he said.

“But increasingly, planned communities will come to mean neighbours living with a purpose beyond consumerism, embracing a sustainable lifestyle and forging meaningful connections with their neighbours.”

Europe has the most registered ecovillages (138), followed by North America (110), Latin America (58), Asia/Oceania (52) and Africa/Middle East (21).

They are found in rural, suburban, and urban areas, and in industrialized and developing countries in what is described as a growing global movement.

Many are cutting energy use by localising farming and creating more sustainable businesses and are supported by international agencies.

Findhorn in Scotland has just 60 percent of the ecological footprint of an average UK citizen.

Meanwhile, in Germany’s Sieben Linden ecovillage, the per head carbon dioxide emissions are less than a third of the national average.

Other environmentally minded communities include more than 450 co-housing projects in North America and Europe.

They are clusters of smaller houses with shared dining halls and other spaces allowing stronger social ties while cutting material and energy needs.

David Gibbs

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