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It Takes an Eco-Village to Make a Really Green Vacation

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Environmentally conscious travelers can find eco-resorts around the world, but for a full, sustainable immersion, take up a short residence at a green community. Many of these sites offer tours, overnight accommodations and activities in which guests are encouraged to participate. Care to pick some organic vegetables or do some composting?

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· The Findhorn Foundation community on the west coast of Scotland emphasizes sustainable living with a spiritual streak. One of its sites, the Park, features an eco-village with 300 residents, 90 ecological structures, gardens, wind turbines, an arts center and more. Visitors can come for the day and take a tour, attend a workshop or event, or spend weeks there. Experience Week, for example, allows guests to work in one of four departments (garden, kitchen, home care, maintenance) and attend such activities as meditation and nature outings. Prices, which include meals and accommodations for seven nights, start at $716 per person. Info: 011-44-1309- 690-311, http://www.findhorn.org.

· The Los Angeles Eco-Village, three miles west of downtown, defies the L.A. lifestyle with its Bicycle Kitchen, a nonprofit group that encourages cycling; gardens and fruit trees; beautification projects that use red-clay brick salvaged from the 1994 earthquake; and other eco-sensitive practices. The site offers $10 tours of its two-block, 500-person community. Info: 213-738-1254, http://www.laecovillage.org.

· EarthArt Village in San Luis Valley, Colo., is in the early stages of development but welcomes guests who care to pitch in. During its exchange program, which lasts three days to two weeks, visitors work on such jobs as agriculture and animal care. Accommodations include RV hookups, camping or a "nook" in the common building; organic meals included. Info: http://www.earthart.org.

· Dancing Rabbit, set in the hills and prairie of northeastern Missouri, features buildings made of natural materials, 60 acres of woods, organic gardens, a food co-op and a visitor program that allows guests to stay one to three weeks during certain periods. Guests participate in workshops, attend social events and help out. (Wash dishes, anyone?) Most people camp, but indoor spaces are sometimes available to rent; the Milkweed Mercantile Eco Inn ( http://www.milkweedmercantile.com) will open in December. Info: 660-883- 5511, http://www.dancingrabbit.org.

· EcoVillage at Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, includes two 30-home neighborhoods, an organic vegetable and berry farm, a nature area and two community houses where residents gather for shared meals. Free tours are held the last Saturday of each month, and private tours can be scheduled for $30 each or $40 per family. Guests also can stay several days or weeks and participate in such activities as work teams, house meals and village planning meetings. Lodging options include a private room and shared bath in the Common House ($65 per person, $75 families), a room in a resident's home ($50) or in one of two on-site B&Bs, the Frog's Way ($90) or the Wild Goose (from $65). Info: http://www.ecovillage.ithaca.ny.us.

· Huehuecoyotl Eco-Village in Santo Domingo Ocotitlan, Mexico, has 14 houses and an international community centered on ecology, the arts, organic gardening, solar power and holistic health methods. The property organizes eco-tours, and visitors are welcome to stay in dorms ($14), campsites ($1.43) or private homes (from $14). Participation is encouraged. Info: http://www.huehuecoyotl.net.

For more information on eco-villages: Global Ecovillage Network, http://gen.ecovillage.org/regions/index.html.

-- A.S.


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