Visit Sustainable Living Communities for Homesteading Inspiration
Permaculture Farming Provides Sustainable Food for the Village
Located in picturesque Iceland 60 miles from Reykjavík, Sólheimar Ecovillage offers a world-renowned sustainable community known for its artistic and ecological atmosphere where about 100 people live and work together. This is one of many sustainable living communities around the globe that you can visit to get inspired and bring back ideas and methods to apply to your own homestead.
Pulling into their parking lot, you can smell the bread, cakes, and buns cooling on the windowsills. In addition to a certified organic bakery, Sólheimar Ecovillage is also organically certified in egg production, gardening, processing of herbs, and most impressively sewers! They also make independent power through water wheel and thermal energy.
According to their website, an estimated 15,000 places in the world are built with sustainable development in mind. Sólheimar was the first place in Iceland to win international recognition as a sustainable community.
In the eco-village, greenhouses are used for both vegetables and ornamentals. Their forestry section is the only organic forestry in Iceland. The village offers a shop/gallery, guesthouses, and many art venues throughout the year. There are six workshops in the village including candle making, ceramics, weaving, carpentry, fine art atelier, paper-making and an herbal workshop that makes soaps, shampoos, and lotions.
The activities of Solheimar are based on the ideals of the village’s founder, Sesselja Hreindísar Sigmundsdóttur. Sesselja, born in 1902, was a pioneer in organic farming, not only in Iceland but among all the Nordic countries. She was among the first environmentalists in Iceland. In 2002 she was recognized with a postage stamp of her portrait with Sólheimar in the background.
Whether you want to be one of the 35,000 tourists a year who visit Sólheimar or an active intern, this ecovillage can teach you how do greenhouses work or permaculture tips, such as raising chickens for eggs.
“These are Icelandic settlement chickens,” Herdís Friðriksdóttir, a property manager, tells me. “The same species as the Vikings brought with them to the country in the year 974.” The flock which ranges from 30 to 50 individuals is free
The flock which ranges from 30 to 50 individuals free ranges and is organically fed. The eggs are used by the denizens of the community and any excess eggs produced are sold in the store Vala.
With Iceland being so cold, I was curious how their buildings are heated sustainably.
“We have very good insulation,” Herdís explains. “With double glass windows and many with turf roofs that save energy, the houses are cool in summer and warm in winter. We also have our own geothermal borehole so we heat up the houses with this hot water through our radiators. We do not use electricity to heat up our houses. We use the excess water from the radiators to heat up the floors and melt the ice outside our houses.”
If you are looking for a sustainable roof other than turf roofs, sedum roofs are popular among many sustainable living communities in North America.
Sesseljuhus Environmental Center is another great example of a sustainable building. The building is the first modern building in Iceland completely free of PVC, a model for environmental-friendliness. The building is dressed with driftwood found on the shores of Iceland. The painted walls inside are made from organic vegetable oils. The walls are insulated with Icelandic lamb wool and the ceilings with recycled paper from old books, phone books, and newspapers.
With funding by a grant from the Environmental Research Council of Iceland, Solheimar has the first natural waste treatment system in Iceland, known as synthetic wetlands. These are ecosystems quickly formed and consisting of plants, microorganisms, and invertebrates. The system uses a sewage separation system to divide the solid waste from the liquid and divert it for natural breakdown into the soil.
The internship program offers permaculture minded individuals the ability to gain work experience as well as gain insight on environmental and social sustainability under the guidance of Solheimar’s staff.
The internships are aimed at strengthening the Sólheimar community and making it more sustainable. The intern program is open to current college students and individuals who are 18 and older. According to their website, preference is given to those who demonstrate initiative, enthusiasm, personal motivation and educational/training background with a focus on community sustainability, artistic skills, environmental studies, and/or specific research focused on Sólheimar’ s needs.
The Hraunprýði the house for interns and volunteers has a 16 room dorm. It’s very pleasant with most of the interns having an ensuite single room with shared kitchen and living room. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian lunch is provided to interns Monday to Friday where the hundred or so community members all come together to enjoy their break.
You can apply for an internship with the following areas within the village:
- Sesseljuhús Environmental Centre
- Naerandi Food Service and Bakery
- Vala Shop and Graena Kannan Café
- Workshops (fine arts, weaving, ceramics, herbal, papermaking, candle making and woodworking)
- Maintenance and Construction
- Ölur Forestry -tree nursery
- Sunna Greenhouses – Organic Horticulture
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