BY: DENISE DENARDO
Imagine a community focused on nurturing a connection with not only nature but with each other.
Hippies from the 60s popularized communes, which were designed to break away from an individualistic approach to life promoting alternative lifestyle choices, peace, freedom and love.
The modern day commune, however, emphasizes the goal of sustainable living. Once on the verge of extinction, intentional communities are on the rise, numbering in the thousands here in the United States. With the change in the economy and greater knowledge of the planet’s deterioration at the hands of our consumerist lifestyles, urban housing cooperatives, eco villages, and communes have emerged to reflect the values and interests of the 21st century citizen.
Values that once were extreme are now more ordinary and even seen as sensible. The Green Movement has become much more accepted than a fringe liberal crusade, and more American citizens believe in being environmentally conscious. Following the blueprint of the earlier communities, today’s communities focus on being socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable.
The modern commune varies in size and will typically revolve around a specific religious, social, or environmental belief. In finding an intentional community, you look to find members who share the same economic, spiritual, social, environmental, or psychological values because you will be sharing almost every aspect of day-to-day life with individuals who believe in these shared values.
Southern California is home to many diverse “intentional communities” found up and down the coast as well as inland. Where these communes used to be refuges isolated from the outside world, they are now are strategically placed into urban settings with the purpose being in part to broadcast their message to the larger society by interacting with “ordinary” citizens.
I was fortunate enough to visit such a community, the Regenerative Cooperative, located in the Lincoln Park District of Pomona, CA, established by Cal Poly Pomona student Will Korthof and his brother in 1999. They purchased a single home five years ago, and have since acquired the four neighboring houses and filled them with like-minded residents.
The establishment of these houses has led to a positive effect on the community outside of the eco-community’s borders, inspiring non-members to be environmentally conscious. This unique housing situation is comprised of individuals who are seeking like-minded housemates in order to create a utopian inner network that will expand outward to the surrounding area.
Alex Vertlbouth, a Cal Poly Pomona student, found himself at the eco community through a Craig’s list ad. Apart from the support that he gets for engaging in sustainable activities, such as riding his bike every day, he also enjoys that he can have “conversations about philosophical issues” that most roommates would not understand and would not engage in.
Like Alex, another resident, Jessica Cunningham, moved here to sustain her eco-conscious approach to living. She now lives with her fiancé at the Regenerative Cooperative in Pomona.
To achieve their goal of reducing their carbon footprint, members of the commune uses environmentally friendly technology. For example, the grey water system in the house allows its residents to regenerate the leftover water from the reusable waste to the sustainable garden in the backyard. The garden is an oasis filled with over 200 different types of fruit and vegetable plants. Even though this is not a self-sustainable community, the eco-community members are doing what they can to help prevent further deterioration of the planet.
Robert Maule, the acting manager of all five houses for the past two years, said he would describe the intentional community as more as an “Israeli Kibbutz” than a typical hippie commune. While hippie communes are associated with free love and drugs, the Kibbutz are more concerned with agriculture, community, and sustainable living techniques.