Shaping Sustainability - Descriptions and Emic Perspectives on Sustainability and Landscape Practices in Two Ecovillage Communities

Open Access
Brosius, James Angelo
Graduate Program:
Landscape Architecture
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 26, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Kenneth Tamminga, Thesis Advisor
  • Timothy Michael Murtha Jr., Thesis Advisor
  • Thomas George Yahner, Thesis Advisor
  • landscape architecture
  • intentional communities
  • sustainability
  • emic
  • perspectives
  • ecovillage
Ecovillages are intentional communities with the stated goal of living a lifestyle of environmental sustainability, based upon the formation of strong community bonds. Ecovillages are an emerging approach towards sustainable development that has, so far, received limited attention in the field of landscape architecture. This research describes how communities with the stated goal of living sustainable lifestyles express sustainability through the organization of and interaction with their landscapes. Through case studies that include key-informant interviews, mapping exercises, and document-based analysis, this research identifies and describes the patterns, practices, and processes that influence how groups of people interact with and influence the physical environment in two ecologically-conscientious communities. This research has found that collective values shape human behavior within these communities, which in turn shape the physical landscape in and around the ecovillage. Collective understandings of sustainability differ between communities, and as a result, different groups go about promoting sustainability with different goals and aims. The findings of this research are presented as an emic description of landscape, and are evaluated for their potential application in the fields of landscape architecture, community development, and sustainable design.