This weekend Findhorn College launches our 5-week Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) course certified by Gaia Education. The course considers community regeneration and design through the lens of four core ‘dimensions’ of sustainability: the social, economic, ecological and cultural-worldview. This blog written by a College Faculty & long-term community member Jane, reflects on how the Findhorn Ecovillage ‘Boutique’ links to these dimensions and kicks off a series of articles that will explore how the dimensions transpire through Findhorn Ecovillage initiatives.
‘I manifested it in the Boutique’ a dear friend told me circa 1982 as she flourished a swanky looking cassette radio player at our shared flat in Edinburgh! That was the first time I heard of manifestation and the first time I heard of the legendary Findhorn Boutique. This mini-enterprise, a kind of ‘swap-shop’ has long served givers and seekers. Givers can release clean, functional, pre-loved items they no longer need or may be lying around cluttering our houses! Or those extra things that guests who visit us can no longer fit in their suitcases. Seekers are blessed to pick out what they want, be it a warm sweater for a visitor from the global south, the assorted oddities for our community kids, or a special outfit for a Findhorn ‘sharing’ concert and so much more.
So let’s look at some examples of how the Boutique connects to the four EDE sustainability dimensions and the benefits we gain in our striving to become a conscious, ecovillage community:
SOCIALLY the Boutique can be a buzzing place, a hub where diverse community members cross paths. It is a space where there is usually someone browsing to have a chat with or equally to be in silence with. It also brings together a group of committed volunteers who sort out the donations, keeps things clean and makes the occasional run to waste-busters in the local town of Forres (another legendary up-cycling enterprise) to appropriately recycle non-useful items. Bravo to community member ‘Chris’ the Boutique Focaliser and the Boutique volunteer team!
CULTURALLY the Boutique promotes a worldview of generosity and an ethos of reduce, reuse and recycle which is a great mantra for ecovillage light-living. It provides a regular opportunity for community members to practice consciousness and mindfulness around giving and receiving without expectation and monetary exchange. It is much loved by the community kids who regularly find new treasures as well as learn core lessons of sharing by bringing toys and clothes they’ve outgrown or have in excess. For many of these kids who grow up in our community, the Boutique becomes one of their rights-of-passage, for when they begin to free-range around the site – the Boutique is often the place they head to and from with their new found freedom! All steps towards sowing the seeds for our youngsters to grow up knowing generosity, abundance and trust!
ECOLOGICALLY there is the beneficial environmental impact practised by many community members who minimise purchasing new, ‘one-use’ consumer items. I read recently that the average garment is worn just 5 times! Where on earth do these underused items go when disposed of? Also, the Findhorn Boutique hosts a mini-recycling system to ethically offload unwanted household items such as light bulbs, mobile, phones, batteries, printer cartridges, crockery, candles and more that could otherwise end up in a landfill. This recent project is an example of expanding the potential of the essence of the boutique inspiring other eco-projects that care for the environment as well as the potential to contribute to the social and economic capital of our community.
ECONOMICALLY the Boutique is designed on a non-monetary system based on trust and community engagement. These core principles are the currency that generates the livelihood and long-standing need for and use of the Boutique. The money that would be normally used to buy additional ‘stuff’ often flows back into other local community initiatives such as our slow food cafes, our organic on-site corner shop, theatre tickets in our Universal Hall showcasing local and international artists as well as our Youth and Family voluntary association who rely on community donations to maintain the work they do in our Ecovillage.
Living in an Ecovillage can often bring up personal processes for community members as we grow beyond our comfort zones from an ‘I’ to ‘We’ consciousness, we are blessed to choose to live in a community that encourages the practices that the Boutique offers us, however you don’t need to live in an Ecovillage to live lighter upon the planet or to incorporate the four sustainability dimensions – you can start right where you are!
Have you got any items lying around that could be upcycled? Maybe they can be fodder for the Boutique on your next visit to our Ecovillage or donated to your local charity or swop shop? If you do give this upcycling practice a go, in your home, you could at the same time contemplate generating the practice of non-attachment. If you do release items – notice any ‘clinging’ thoughts or feelings as you consider to release and let go, and know you are not alone! These feelings and thoughts are fundamental sensations spread throughout our consumerist society.
Wouldn’t it be great if other communities replicated our funky Findhorn Ecovillage Boutique! If you know of such like projects in your neighbourhood we would love to learn about them!