I live in Cloughjordan ecovillage which is Ireland's first ecovillage established in the early 2000s. Situated behind the main street of Cloughjordan in north Tipperary, the ecovillage is home to 55 households and has a total population in late 2014 of around 140 people. The origins of the project lie in a group loosely associated with the Dublin Co-Housing and the Dublin Food Co-op in the mid 1990s that began discussing the possibility of establishing Ireland's first ecovillage. In 1999 a company called Sustainable Projects Ireland Limited (SPIL) was established as a legal entity with a board of directors but which is non-profit making and operates as a co-operative. SPIL is also an educational charity. Its purpose is to build an ecovillage which, according to SPIL's memorandum of association 'will serve as a model for sustainable living into the 21st century and will serve as an education, enterprise and research resource for all.'
By 2002, the village of Cloughjordan was selected as the site and a year-long community consultation began with residents. An Ecological Charter of basic principles for development of the ecovillage was drawn up and agreed by members and a master plan developed and submitted for planning permission. By 2005, a 67-acre site had been bought and, following the granting of outline planning permission, infrastructural work began in 2007. With its completion in 2008, the first houses were constructed in 2009 and the first residents moved in in December 2009. Altogether 114 residential housing units are planned including individual houses, semi-detached houses, terraces and apartments, plus 16 live-work units with spaces in which to run businesses. The residential area comprises just one-third of the site. A second third is devoted to support services and amenities including a district heating system, an eco-enterprise centre, allotments for growing food and a community farm. Native varieties of apple trees have been planted in this area and, throughout the ecovillage various varieties of herbs and fruit bushes have been planted to create an 'edible landscape'. The final third of the site is devoted to woodland in which 17,000 varieties of trees were planted in 2011, mainly native species. This is regarded as an amenity area for residents and visitors as well as a contribution to promoting biodiversity in the area. The ecovillage has a land use plan 'based on the principles of environmental and ecological diversity, productive landscape and permaculture'.
The ecovillage seeks to model the transition towards a low-carbon and sustainable society through its low-energy houses, its district heating system that uses no fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gas emissions (wood chip from a nearby factory supplemented by Ireland's largest bank of solar panels are used to heat all the water used throughout the ecovillage and heating all its buildings), its community supported agriculture (CSA) farm that supplies food to members that is grown biodynamically, and most especially through its vibrant interdependent community life. For more information about the village and about the courses being offered, visit the website of the Cloughjordan ecovillage.