Last Tuesday, all of the 91 bloggers taking part in the TH!NK initiative headed to Dyssekilde, a Danish eco-village north of Copenhagen. It was such a great day – really fascinating, with great people and [let me say it] excellent food!
Dyssekilde is an eco-experiment in the form of a small village north of Copenhagen that has existed for about 25 years. It started with a bunch of people who wanted to be self-sustaining and lead a simple lifestyle. It’s now expanded into a fully functioning and – for the most part – self-sustaining village.
We got a fabulous reception on our arrival. We were ushered into the town hall [a renovated barn with exposed beams and high ceilings] where the welcoming committee had laid out a great spread for us made up of organic fruit and veggies, coffee and various types of tea. [Still dreaming about that delicious corn on the cob.] This is what it looked like:
We then got about an hour of presentations about how Dyssekilde works – the basic facts and figures, as well as really enlightening information about such diverse topics as democratic processes and toilet purification issues. Everything you ever wanted to know about living in an eco-village but were afraid to ask, essentially.
Following that, we got a guided tour. The village land is communal and village residents can go anywhere at will without being afraid of trespassing on their neighbours’ property. There are no fences in Dyssekilde. Many people have built their own homes there and there are no rules about design or building materials or anything – basically people are just free to experiment. Example:
In the afternoon we were split into groups of three or four and each group got sent off to a house to chat with the residents. So cool of the people to just open up their homes like that. Our guy, Jochem, was extremely laid-back thirtysomething guy with big holes in his earlobes. He’d built his own house from scratch. We talked a bit about insulation; Jochen used flax on the inside of the walls because it breathes better than regular insulation. [Who knew?] Here’s the house on the outside:
And a picture of Jochem’s bedroom with the flax in the walls:
Pretty nice, no?
As for waste water [read: toilets etc.] the community has set up a system of water cleansing that is the largest of its kind in the world. Essentially it works like this: someone flushes their loo and the contents go into a tank where the, ahem, more solid matter sinks to the bottom. That has to be cleaned out like a septic tank [they said they were disappointed not to be able to do it in a more sustainable manner, but this seems to be the only solution at the moment], whereas the liquid passes through a pipeline to a field, where they have planted willow trees. The willows actually absorb and all the toxins and stuff and purify the waste water. In the process they make for a nice leisure area, where – as our tour guide Leif put it – “we can party in our own shit”. [Sounds kinda like Reykjavík nightlife at 4 am.]
He wasn’t joking, either. They’ve even set up a makeshift bar:
My guess is that the resident Australian was in charge of the decorations.
On the way back from the bar I found this lying in the grass. Good to keep in mind:
The village has its own wind turbine, which provides power for all 100 households in the village – and then some. Its capacity is actually enough to supply 250 households with electricity. It is located at the edge of the willow field, and it makes a bit of noise, which from what I understand is what people most often complain about. Some people also consider them a blemish on the countryside – I find them really imposing and impressive. Awe-inspiring, in fact.
Dyssekilde also also has its own agricultural field, where they grow potatoes and other veggies. The deal there is that everyone who wants to eat from the field has to commit to 40-60 hours of work per year, and pay a nominal fee – enough to cover the cost of the seeds. If you’ve done that, you can eat as much from the field as you want.
Also very impressive was the community house that they built together, where anyone can hold a party or function, where they can barbecue together or just do whatever, and where there is special accommodation that people can reserve for their visitors. Here’s a pic:
There is a whole lot more to the village than I can do justice to here, but I think what made the strongest impression on me was the sense of the community and the laid-back, easygoing friendliness of the people. Everyone we met were so open and genuine. They have a democratic system for making decisions – they get together and vote on stuff, and if the issue is particularly sensitive they’ll hold a debate in advance, so people can blow off steam before the actual voting. There are all sorts of initiatives, anything from getting together to build a house, to holding movie evenings and yoga classes. All sorts of groups operate for various things [such as receiving groups like ours] yet nobody in the village is forced to participate. They just do so if they want [and if they do, they apparently get a lot of positive reinforcement from the rest of the community]. The village also owns its own communal cars, one for each five households, and people just reserve the cars for when they need them.
I have no illusions that life in Dyssekilde is one big chain of love – obviously people have differing views and don’t always get along. But surely there is something to be said about people sharing a common philosophy and outlook – I can say for myself, for example, that I think it would be infinitely easier if the people in my building all spoke a common language and shared a common set of values. Must make it a lot easier to resolve conflicts.
In any case, from what I could see, the Dyssekilde experiment is a success. And if everyone did even a fraction of what they do to save the planet on a daily basis, we’d be light years ahead of where we are now.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH
Fall has definitely arrived here in Iceland. I go away for four days and what happens? All the leaves change colour. It’s rainy and damp today, temps of 9°C [48F]. Sunrise was at 7.15, sunset at 7.22.
[This post is also published here.]