Life Design: Your CSSL* awaits [* Community Supported Sustainable Lakehouse]

A well-designed life (see “life design”) must answer The Big Question: What level of well-being can be achieved when we use the resources actually and equitably available to us? In other words, how do we design a life that maximizes sustainable well-being using the one planet we have1? Or, even more succinctly, what does One Planet Thriving look like? Introducing your Community Supported Sustainable Lake House (CSSL).

Click the button below to download your eBook with example Holistic Goal, some details, and a discussion of how to find the right people.

The Vision: Create a test-field for a culture that maximizes sustainable well-being while offering a vacation home on the lake (or pond) for now and a lifeboat in a storm if need be. [possible model, PermaEthos].

For aspects of CSSL for surviving, try these videos:

The above video is a description of the Survival Condo. Other apocalypse shelter options in old silos. And, a real estate company that will sell you one.


The video above highlights Atlas Survival shelters. Can one use these shelters as a safe room and root cellar as well?

What to do in a nuclear incident. For a safe room in a basement or other part of the house, sand walls for blocking radiation and bullets?

Beyond surviving bad times is thriving. Thriving means living a life with high mental and physical health while adhering to the 4 principles of sustainability articulated by the Natural Step (see this NY Times article for similar & more Four necessary principles for sustainable lifestylesdiscussion on the above figure), using only t2013_March_SustainabilityGoals_UNhe resources available if those resources were fairly distributed. In other words, how do we maximize well-being by staying “in budget”? In order to stay within budget, it is helpful to have some measure of it. Among the possible measures, include: (1) Ecosystem Services; (2) Ecological Footprint; (3) $10,000 of yearly income per person; (4) $31,664 of wealth per person; and (5) balanced use of time (e.g., 30 hours of work per week per adult). To do this, in essence, we have to become more efficient at well-being.

How do we become more efficient at well-being?

Source: http://ctb.ku.edu/en/default.aspx
Part of the materials developed by The Community Toolbox (http://ctb.ku.edu/en/default.aspx)

(1) Juliet Schor has articulated the idea of “plenitude” (accessibly articulated in her book, True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans Are Creating a Time-Rich,Ecologically Light,Small-Scale, High-Satisfaction Economy) to describe an economics based on 4 principles that move us toward this goal. (i) Re-allocation of time (“work less in the declining market, but use those freed-up hours productively, to invest in new skills and activities”); (ii) Self-provision: make, do, or grow things for oneself; (iii) “True materialism” recognizes that what we consume matters greatly to a planet with limited resources; (iv) Invest in ourselves and our communities. As she says, “True wealth can be attained by mobilizing and transforming the economies of time, creativity, community, and consumption.”(Kindle Locations 1352-1353)

While there are likely to be tradeoffs (reduced well-being due to a reduction in resource use) the Stern Review is an example from an alternative discourse suggesting that reducing our resource use will make us better off than the alternative. Specifically, the Stern Review suggests that eliminating climate change by reaching reasonable CO2 targets is the equivalent of saving ourselves 5% of our GDP every year.

First Goal: Research existing models. One Planet Communities are communities seeking to maximize well-being, principally by reducing planetary resource use. While intentional communities, like Findhorn (Scotland), Aurora (India), Crystal Waters (Australia), Tamera (Portugal), Dancing Rabbit (Missouri, US), Earthaven (North Carolina, US) are other approaches with similar goals.

Second Goal: Development roll-out package that includes (a) software/social covenants, (b) synergistic hardware plan/drawings (see below), and (c) a process for evaluating and evolving both over time. The package should have multiple entry points to attract people at different levels of commitment (from full-time living to vacation “glamping” at the lake house to simple financial or work support), involve the least amount of community possible to achieve high sustainable well-being, and be administered in a process requiring the least meetings and rules possible. In this sense, the goal is to build a culture around the fewest possible covenants, with processes that are as self-managing as possible.

Phases: (I) Develop covenants/agreements for 4 areas (and 20 facets) covered in the Ecovillage Design Education course (curriculum; See Findhorn’s Common Ground statement of values as an example; See also Satyana Institute’s Principles of Spiritual Activism). Another way of dividing things is based on Tamera’s list of basic needs: Food, Water, Energy, and Love. (II) Develop drawing based on hardware that synergizes with phase I; (III) Allow for multiple levels of involvement and commitment. (IV) Go public with the plan and invite others.

OnePlanetLiving10PrinciplesThe 10 principles of “One Planet” communities are maybe a better basis than the 4 areas for the development of covenants. Many of them are primarily focused on the denominator of sustainable well-being, i.e., lifestyle resource use. Furthermore, they are well articulated by the One Planet communities, although here is a discussion on the exciting possibilities for carbon-sequestering, clean-burning, sustainable, energy in the form of permaculture-produced alcohol. Thus, here, we focus on becoming more specific with 3 of the principles.

Click the button below to download your eBook with example Holistic Goal, some details, and a discussion of how to find the right people.

(1) Culture and community (see Social below)

  • Self-other balance: (a) Love thy neighbor as thyself.  (b) Self-care is critical as a foundation for other-care. (c) Neither invade nor abandon
  • Choose small, frequent conflicts over large, infrequent conflict. Do not let resentments fester and turn into overt conflict or passive aggressive behavior
  • Skillful communication: (a) Positive to negative interactions in 5:1 ratio. (b) Refrain from criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. (c) Diversity = multiple voices = wisdom
  • Willingness to grow. This means a willingness to learn from our own issues.

(2) Equity and local economy: (a) Time; (b) incentives so systems are relatively self-managing; (c) using only resources available if resources are fairly distributed. See below for more on Economics.

Sample costs based on land for sale 1.5 hours NE of Madison, WI

Acres 102        
Sale price $250,000   # Families Down Monthly
Taxes $5,750   5 $10,000 $229
Down $50,000   10 $5,000 $115
Monthly $1,146   20 $2,500 $57

(3) Health and happiness:

  • Physical health; (a) Exercise, 30 mins, 3/week; (b) nutrition
  • Mental health: (a) relationships; (b) awareness; (c) meaning
  • Heathcare: (a) prevention focus through healthy living; (b) catastrophic care through insurance

(11) Beautiful surroundings [not included in One Planet’s 10 principles]: (a) Clean; (b) aesthetics are a priority.

EDE 4 Keys Graphic 2012Worldview

  • The Universe is complex & mysterious: Rules are guidelines and will always be slightly wrong. Thus, discernment through awareness of self and others in the present moment is best tool we have given complexity and fact that we’re human. Group discernment is often better than individual discernment: “wisdom of crowds”. Good is better than perfect.
  • Interdependence: We depend on each other and everything else on the planet. We are not separate from nature or each other. Thus, we must grow together, connect with each other, listen to each other, and care for each other. Power should not accumulate: all voices are part of our wisdom.
  • “Miracles happen, shit happens…it’s a package deal”: Light and Dark, Birth and Death, Bliss and Pain, are all part of life.
  • Commitment to personal growth. Strong foundation is needed for building up or moving outward. Start with the inner circle (personal) and move outward toward community and planet only with strong foundation.
  • Forms, rituals, customs “hard-wire” values (e.g., rites of passage, forum)
  • Time: Having enough time to focus on what is most meaningful in life. Without time to be together, there is no village. For more, see Time Poverty post.
  • To live ethically and well means maximizing Sustainable well-being (SWB): A commitment to living well and sustainably for the self, community, & planet. SWB = (health * years of life)/Ecological Footprint. Sustainable = can be continued indefinitely into the future. The question is what level of well-being can be achieved when we use the resources actually available equitably?
  • Beauty: (a) Clean, (b) Quality/craftsmanship, (c) form meets function, (d) democratic technology and objects, (e) Art



1. Shifting the Global Economy to Sustainability. By being a good model and through outreach. Affordable (e.g., < $30,000/year for family of 4). Living simply enough that finances are not the primary determinant of how we spend our time. Sharing resources seems key in this regard:

  • Interesting to think of family, clan (collection of families), tribe (the village)
  • Simplest and smallest housing possible. Perhaps only bedroom. Open air?
  • Shared kitchen among 6-10 people (~4 families)
  • Shared bathing facilities. e.g., Japanese style: wash off first with a short shower & then soak in a hot common tub

2. Right Livelihood. Businesses: (1) mushrooms (see (Im)permanence episode 1); (2) Mediation/facilitation training and services; (3) Education; (3) See Open Source Ecology project (making & selling/renting machines for civilization)

3. Social Enterprise.

4. Community Banks & Currencies.

5. Legal & Financial Issues.

  • Different levels of commitment ($ and time): (1) Cash payment for land; (2) Time commitment for covenant design; (3) Intense financial commitment for personal living space and infrastructure; (4) time commitment for infrastructure (e.g., common space, pond, sauna)
  • Income sharing? Needs common business?
  • Coops (ala DR)?


1. Green Building & Retrofitting. Physical housing. For a post on a small, affordable, kit home designed to be passive solar and LEED cerfied, see this the Newenhouse post. Note that such a house does not have any where near the energy requirements (whether wood or otherwise) as more conventional construction.

Heat & cooking: Based on Helen and Scott Nearing (see their classic book, The Good Life), figure 4 cords of wood/family/year. Assuming sustainable yield from woods of 1 cord/acre/year, means 4 acres/family for wood-based heating and cooking needs. However, housing like the Newenhouse, can substantially reduce energy needs, including heating. One benefit is that it reduces the amount of land needed for a community. However, a better option than heating by burning wood is suggested by Jean Pain method of creating humus, heated water, & methane from wood chips. See (Im)permanence episode #2, somewhere near 35 minutes in begins the discussion and methane is focus from about 44:49. Because of issues (and danger) with compressing the gas, he suggests just using the methane for heating water and cooking. See this video for more: yields 1/5 more energy from the wood than burning it, but then also is good fertilizer as well. Part II of this video is here. This video uses the Jean Pain method and also is a great example of stacking multiple functions, using a compost pile to kill some stuff underneath it, heating water for an outdoor shower for 2 months, where the water from the shower keeps mushrooms moist. How about heating your greenhouse? Check this post for a very cool blog post (Part I and Part II) from a guy who has built one of these suckers in Wisconsin.

Buildings: simple design, hire locals to replicate on site techniques

2. Local Food. Read this as “Basic Needs”.

  • Location: Aspects of location in descending order of importance to us.
    1. Larger community is relatively peaceful, conscious, reasonable, and friendly. Family & friends nearby.
    2. Larger culture is supportive and perhaps even provides a skillful foundation for sustainable and resilient ecovillage living
    3. Weather permits year-round food production, simple shelter, and water without fossil fuel inputs
    4. Relatively safe if crisis occurs (best ways may be having good relationships in supportive culture as in 1 & 2), but distance (up to 3 hours away) from places not characteristic of 1&2 is another (or complementary) approach
  • Safety & Resilience. Resilience is necessary but not sufficient for sustainability: Be prepared for as many future scenarios as possible while maintaining quality of life (i.e., well-being)
    • Definition: Being prepared for multiple possible futures; robust to varying conditions; not fragile, brittle, or easily broken. Example: fire insurance is an investment in resilience; it costs something even if we don’t need it, but we pay for it because it makes us more resilient. Storing food even though grocery stores have plenty of food right now is another example. Learning and practicing skills that one might need to survive is yet another example. The more scenarios a community is prepared for, the more resilient it is, but what is the right balance between this defensive strategy and just enjoying what we got?
    • Size: Need 40-50 people at a minimum to have resilience d/t people leaving. Also discourages one leader and encourages group wisdom and diversity of opinions
    • Diversity is key from people to sources of income (“7 streams of income”) to skills to food sources
  • Food: Subset of community whose job is to grow 80% of food community needs. “Market Gardening”. Family of 4 = 1/4 acre for 100% of food with 4-5 hours/week of work per family (less if 1 person is in charge)
  • Water: on-site, clean, plentiful
    • The whole design of the land should be built around water
    • See this link for a video interview with Sepp Holzer’s son, describing the importance of water and their integrated pond system on their long-established (and highly vertical) permaculture farm,Krematahoff. Sepp Holzer is featured in work at Tamera as well and is known for his focus on water in systems.
    • sewer solution (see IMpermanence episode 1)
    • For more on Water filtering, see this post

3. Appropriate Technology. See Open Source Ecology project for an organization building a toolkit of 50 open-source machines that make a modern lifestyle possible with 12 people, working 2 hours a day, for 1 year.

  • See Jean Pain composting method above under shelter.

4. Restoring nature & Rebuilding after Disasters. Restoration is an even higher standard than sustainability. There is an intention to heal and restore the resilience and diversity of nature.

5. Integrated Ecovillage Design. Synergy folks! Whenever possible, the whole must be greater than the sum of its parts. (see hardware ideas/drawings below for brainstorming about overall housing groups)


“Community is that place where the person you least want to live with always lives…When that person moves away, someone else arises immediately to take his or her place.” – Parker Palmer

1. Building Community & Embracing Diversity.

  • Building Community. Involves welcoming new people, saying goodbye to others, and evolving a dynamic community culture.
    • Newcomers = probationary period with older member mentor with focus on observation (limits new ideas that turn established culture/systems upside down from people who may leave; see Lebengarten Impermanence Post)
    • “Active tolerance as each individual’s commitment to allow others to get on with whatever they are getting on with…with complete trust and confidence that what they are doing is beneficial” (see Lebengarten Impermanence Post)


  • Diversity: There is wisdom in multiple voices, resilience in multiple solutions. Any and all diversity is welcome as long as core values and covenants are kept.Lifespan: Taking care of elders and children through rites of passage, care, education, and enough peers that both ends of the spectrum have friends and feel accompanied.
  • Multiple Entry Points: A successful project must build relationships with people based on different levels of commitment so that people can contribute to the project in ways that feel comfortable and exciting to them. Here are possible entry points: (1) Full-time living; (2) Vacation “glamping“;
    “Glamping”. Source: travelettes.net

    (3) Vacation at your own lake house; (4) Member of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA); (5) Education / classes / workshops; (6) Retreats; (7) Financial support; (8) Internship; (9) Intellectual contributions (e.g., contributing to this page through research and writing)



2. Communication, Facilitation, & Conflict Resolution.

  • Self-other balance: (a) Love thy neighbor as thyself.  (b) Self-care is critical as a foundation for other-care.
  • Neither invade nor abandon: self or others (as below)
  • Choose small, frequent conflicts over large, infrequent conflict. Do not let resentments fester and turn into overt conflict or passive aggressive behavior
  • Skillful communication: (a) Positive to negative interactions in 5:1 ratio. (b) Refrain from criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
  • Mindfulness: commitment to being present, as aware as possible of all aspects of interdependent now –> decreased reactivity and increased compassion (as below)

3. Personal Empowerment & Leadership.

  • Neither invade nor abandon: self or others (as above)
  • Mindfulness: commitment to being present, as aware as possible of all aspects of interdependent now –> decreased reactivity and increased compassion (as above)

4. Health & Healing. Mind, Body, Spirit.

  • healthy life encouraged and promoted by community: perhaps through group practice
  • preventative/primary healthcare (Raj)
  • Health insurance. By joining the Federation for Egalitarian Communities (FEC) which requires an income-sharing plan and meeting other criteria (although the community only needs to be > 2 people), the community has access to catastrophic health insurance through PEACH. Note that the FEC has helpful guidelines on forming a community.

5. Local, Bioregional, and global outreach. Concentric circles going outward. Outreach: Education and promotion of these ideals are part of the community mission.

Possible hardware ideas.

Picture of a “pod”. 10-16 people sharing a common room with kitchen, bath, living room. Dotted line is green house.




Village consists of clusters of pods with village square, pond, and farm.



A Model: There are three primary reasons why Tamera Peace Village (see this post) is a potentially interesting model: (a) It is focused on inner and outer work to create a local culture that promotes peace and shares that work outside the community; (b) It has developed social technology that make inner work a vital and ongoing part of community life, including living forms that promote transparency, honesty, and conflict resolution in human relationship; (c) The mission of peace and the social structures that make this a living reality synergize with various more physical aspects of the village, including their work with water and technologies represented in their solar village. There are 200 people at Tamera. Though a size of 150 or so seems like a good number given historic village sizes, the size is not the focus here. Part of its being a model would mean people in our community would get educated at Tamera (or similar places), bringing back info, approaches, forms, and experiments.

Click the button below to download your eBook with example Holistic Goal, some details, and a discussion of how to find the right people.


1 – This UNESCO Policy Brief provides a nice discussion of the intersection of ecosystem services and well-being.




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