On Saturday, we visited an eco-village at Hjortshoj, Denmark. We were met there by Judit and Gunnar, two very kind people very passionate about their sustainable community. The eco-village is a group of eight housing clusters. The eight communities live together, cook together, farm together, and work together. There are 250 residents overall, some renting homes and others buying them. Judit and Gunnar told us that they wanted the village to be affordable for everyone, and there are homes affordable for all different levels of income. As you could probably tell, the main goal of the eco-village is to be sustainable. The south sides of the houses have large windows to let in as much sun as possible. The north sides have very small windows to let in as little wind as possible. This way there is a less of a need for heating. For the additional heating, all of the homes have solar panels. These are used for heating water as well as electricity. The village also has a wood pellet burner and a farm with vegetables and animals to provide food for the residents. Several of the residents help farm. We had the opportunity to eat some vegetables straight from the garden, and they were incredible.
Perhaps even more impressive than the sustainability of the eco-village is the sense of community. Each cluster meets monthly and annually to talk about issues and make decisions about a variety of things. It is a very democratic process with no single person in charge. The whole village meets monthly and annually as well to discuss various topics. The village holds several parties, and the residents are all close. With the constant tension in the United States, we could learn something from this village. A community with a common goal can accomplish great things.
While eating a wonderful traditional Danish lunch of fish and bread, I had the opportunity of talking to Judit about the state of mental health in Denmark. Back home, I often see Denmark among the happiest countries in the world. However, Judit told me almost everybody in Denmark is effected by the little sunshine provided in winter. A lot of people have therapeutic lights to help, especially the people more effected by the dark and gloomy winters. Judit also explained to me that the way the Danish welfare system is set up actually creates a sense of loneliness among the older population. Because people get free care when they need it, older people are visited by a doctor on a regular basis. However, these doctors are on a time constraint and do not usually develop a relationship with the homeowner. Family members are less inclined to visit with free care provided, and they often live far away. Therefore, a lot of older people in Denmark are lonely, which can create depression. This proves that even the countries we think of as happy have their own problems. However, as shown by the eco-village, communities coming together can make this world a better place.
Well, we are off to Malmö, Sweden. Stay tuned for more blog posts in the future!