At Dancing Rabbit we are a community of people dedicated to demonstrating a certain kind of lifestyle. Call it “eco”, “eco-groovy”, “green”, “sustainable”, “mindful”, “small footprint”, or any of a number of other buzz words, the effect on our lives is the same: We each make it a point to live in a way that doesn’t use more than our share of resources or produce more byproduct than the systems of our environment (made by us or provided by nature) can process.
The manifestation of Dancing Rabbit’s vision, covenants, and sustainability guidelines happens both in DR policy decisions and choices we make in our daily lives. It can be seen in our diets, food preparation, building design, construction, electricity production, energy use, water use and treatment, transportation, space heating, and more.
Our covenants and sustainability guidelines direct us to use renewable energy, so many members have chosen to install solar panels and wind turbines for generating electricity. Some are “off-grid”–self contained systems with batteries–and others are tied to our village power co-op (BEDR) which uses two large arrays of solar panels and has a commitment to being a net exporter of energy to the wider grid. Because these systems produce observably finite amounts of electricity, we also focus on how to minimize electricity use, such as using compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs instead of incandescents (and turning off lights and fans when not in use); and using laptop computers instead of desk tops.
Limiting electricity use and using wood heating both affect the design of our homes. We improve the efficiency of our homes to minimize energy spent on heating and cooling, and to reduce the inclusion of manufactured building materials with high embodied energy. Many homes have large south facing windows for passive solar heating in the winter, but have overhangs that shade the window from the summer sun. Generous insulation, thermal mass and rocket stoves (very efficient wood stoves) are also common features. Many buildings use straw for insulation because it is a locally available, renewable resource. Straw bales or light clay straw walls are lined with earthen plaster, another locally available resource that also serves as a thermal mass, which moderates temperature extremes inside. We put our buildings close together, and often, facilities such as kitchens, laundry, and showers are shared in common areas as a way to minimize the footprint of our individual living spaces.
To live it is necessary to eat; to live sustainably, we consider the use and replenishment of resources necessary to sustain ourselves. For some members, that means striving to eat local, organic, and seasonal foods. Many members grow their own vegetables and everyone composts their kitchen scraps to fertilize future crops. Some members choose to reduce animal products from their diet because of the greater amount of land and water required for meat calories compared to that of plant calories. In addition, some people cook with wood heat or solar ovens or use a hot box in order to minimize propane use.
We are committed to reclaiming all organic “waste” which means, in addition to composing kitchen scraps, we use composting toilets or the humanure system. Greywater from sinks and showers drains to lagoons where plants turn it into nutrient-rich biomass.
Members are restricted from having personal automobiles so we have a popular car-sharing program – the Dancing Rabbit Vehicle Co-op. Through life-style choices, biking, public transportation, and car pooling; the 60 people living here meet our travel needs with just two cars and a truck. That’s one parking space per 20 people.
Dancing Rabbit has planted over 12 thousand trees on its land as well as 30 acres of native grasses in order to restore some of its land to the ecological system that was sustainable for hundreds of year.
We also recycle our glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, aluminum and steel, by bringing it to the nearest recycling center for processing.
It is our hope that by consciously managing our energy, material and land resources; that we will create a village that is sustainable and joyful for hundreds of years into the future.