Village Terraces, shown here, is constructed from local wood, clay, and straw, and features passive solar construction and photovoltaic panels, composting toilets, and rainwater water catchment.

Arjuna da Silva’s home, built over the course of seven years through the Natural Building School, was as much about education and building relationships as construction. (p. 48 in the book)

Chuck Marsh’s home and permaculture garden offer a glimpse of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Community meetings are held in Council Hall, a 13-sided straw-bale structure built by the community.

Chris Farmer’s self-built, off-grid micro-hut features a kitchen, dining area, living room, office, bedroom loft, and an incredible view—all on 140 square feet of ground! (pp. 41-2)

The community wood shop plays a central role in Earthaven's building and sustainable forestry practices.

The Tribal Condo, one of Earthaven’s first experiments in natural building, serves as a home and office space for three women.

Kimchi Rylander, a resident of the Tribal Condo, stands in her dining room.

Much of the collective work at Earthaven, like this gardening at Village Terraces, is done in work parties.

Like many rural ecovillages, Earthaven grows its own shitake mushrooms.

Gateway Farm specializes in mult-functionality. These Icelandic sheep supply meat to the community and wool to its weavers. (see pp. 57-58 in the book)

Earthaven homes channel rain into ponds, which serve as both wildlife habitat and contemplative spaces.

Martha Harris navigates the steep terrain at Village Terraces with her solar-powered golf cart.

While Earthaven seeks to “co-create with Spirit a wise, just, and sustainable culture,” its spirituality is eclectic. This forest shrine is one expression of its organic approach to spirituality.

Previous Previous


My first stop was Earthaven, a picturesque 320-acre off-grid community and educational center nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Established in 1994, Earthaven aspires to be “a living laboratory and educational seed bank for a sustainable human future.” Its roughly 60 members share an affinity for permaculture and aim to become a self-sustaining village of 150 living on 56 home sites.

I was thoroughly impressed by what Earthaven had created in 15 years: a rapidly evolving expertise in forestry, a range of natural building styles, 100% energy and water self-sufficiency, and several thriving farms—all in what was once raw forest.

Yet the community was emerging from a rocky period in which a few members were continually blocking the community consensus. When I arrived, Earthaven was reassessing its decision-making structure. In the end, they adopted a modified consensus rule: a block is declared invalid if 85% of Council members believe it to be so.

Earthaven’s experience reinforced my own belief that social sustainability is the foundation for ecological sustainability. It also led the community to preface its list of eleven goals with Goal Zero: To promote and ensure the long-term structural integrity of the community.

As part of its educational mission, Earthaven publishes a blog and a quarterly newsletter.

Official site:

Virtual tour

Stay In Touch!