Study circles at Sunny Hill through the eyes of EVS volunteer

Written by Nolwenn

As an EVS volunteer I took the task to write articles about our study circles about sustainability . 
Just a quick presentation of myself : My name is Nolwenn and I am 23. I am a french volunteer volunteering here in Sunny Hill for almost 2 months now. I studied hotel management, sustainable development and tourism. I am interested in sustainability. I learnt a lot from my studies and from participations from training course/youth exchanges Erasmus + . I want  now to live a long-term experience in harmony with nature provide us and in a sustainable way of living . It is always enriching to learn theoretical knowledge not only in school but also by the way of non-formal education. Now I need something more concrete. Act and change my way of living become fundamental more and more for me. I need to keep hope and to challenge myself to live the way I believe in for our future. I am not in a fairy tale I know climate change is happening here by the weather, natural disasters happening all around our world or statistics of report from reliable institutions. It is scary and maybe it is already too late. But I want to do what is right for me, our society and what we can still save from our planet. I learnt a lot since I am here. That is why I think it is  interesting to share with you about our community and what we will learn in these study circles.

We were invited to be part of a study circle on sustainable culture of living, organised by Forest school Hosta and the mentor Marjeta Šumrada. Sustainable way of living is also the theme of the association Sunny Hill.  We found it interesting to have the opportunity to gather, share and talk especially about this topic. Indeed I think sustainability is not only an idea now, but a concrete process which needs to be considered quickly. This way of non-formal education will help a lot. We will share our background, knowledge, experience to be innovative in the future. I strongly recommend you to get information about the non-formal education learning. 

Before I summarise the main points of our first circle, here it is a definition of sustainability: “A characteristic or state whereby the needs of the present and local population can be met without compromising the ability of future generations or populations in other locations to meet their needs. ” ( found on the glossary of www.ipbes.net )

The aim of this circle was to understand how we are sustainable in our way of living in our community Sunny Hill. We organised this circle by the three pillars of sustainability : economy / social / ecology . Before starting each pillar we always speak a bit of what it is for us in the society. Then we did a brainstorming for each pillar. We started to write our hearts, it means what we are doing well in our community about this pillar. Then we finished by our deltas, it means how we can improve ourselves in the future. 

ECONOMY

As we are surrounded by an amazing unspoiled nature , we want to live in simplicity and preserve it as much as we can. So we try to minimise  our cost of living by working together. We cultivate our own vegetables, we cook and we store our own wood to not buy from outside. We are lucky to be a group of people with different skills and talents. So each of us can use them to build or fix something instead of buying new.  The heart of our economy is ‘magic jar’. The principle is that everybody can contribute in it according to their point of balance, that is the point that one can afford, still doesn’t take advantage of it by not contributing at all. This money is used for food, shopping or unexpected situations. It is based on solidarity between each other because we all have different role in our group.

We can still improve ourselves in the economic way because for the moment what we cultivate, cook, create is mainly for our community. As only some people here have a job outside of the community  it could be great to find a way of marketing development (sell our own products). Then our work here could contribute to the local economy and members of the community will not have to find a job next to the work in the community anymore.

SOCIAL

As we run this place together the social part of sustainability is important . Once per week we meet all together to speak about organisation of the community (what we have to do next week, who is here, who is coming…). On this meeting it is important that everybody is actively present because we can speak freely about what is relevant for the community life. We take some decisions which have to be approved by all members. To keep a conviviality inside our ecovillage we cook and eat together. We know that being around the table is a good opportunity every day to gather and care about each other.

There is still place for improvement in the organisation, communication or self involvement at the same level as it is a young community.  We have been creating a community handbook, that is being written by some members and it will be read and approved by everybody. It will contain clear indications on the decision making process and how to deal with conflicts for example. It will help  to understand our way of living to visitors and new (potential) members. It will help to all the members already there to communicate more and adapt the same way of living more sustainable if it is understood and practiced well in the future.

ECOLOGY

 This part will be maybe less detailed because I am planning to write more specific article and post some pictures about our ecological practices as it represents mostly our everyday lifestyle.
First about the food: we cultivate organic vegetables following  permacutlure principles. We still buy some food in the supermarket the products wrapped in plastic.  We are looking for ways to reduce plastic package to zero if at all possible. We are connected to the rainwater and we need to pay attention on how much do we use it. Especially in the summer, the need for water increases because of the gardens. To reduce water consumption we use compost toilet. The water from showers and kitchen goes in the reedbed where it get cleaned by the roots of the reed, so we can  reuse the water for our gardens. Of course, we need to use only ecological washing liquids and cosmetics. We heat the house and water with modern stove with double combustion chamber. We cut and store the wood ourselves. We plan to install solar panels to heat the water, however the investment is not small. We have still to figure it out. We are located in an isolated place so we do not have the choice than to drive when we need to go somewhere. We  try to organise ourselves to practice car share.

So these are the findings of our first circle. I’ll keep you posted about next gatherings.

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