Does Living in Community make you Happier? 

- Author:  Becca Lambert

This month we have a guest post by one of our high-school volunteers, Becca Lambert. For the past few months, Becca has graciously donated her time and energy to volunteering at EVO as part of her senior thesis for school. She then turned her experience into qualitative and quantitative research exploring the benefits of living in intentional eco-communities. Here’s Part one of a two part series on what Becca has discovered through her research:

Two years ago, my advisor took our class to a local intentional community called the Emerald Village for community service day.

The village is a beautiful bond between several families, who decided to settle down together on a cozy farmland which previously housed a bed-and-breakfast. Just entering the property, you feel a very strong sense of community.  These people are proud of who they are and everything they do because they have found reason within their work and relationships. That day I spent on their land, helping them through community service to better their organization, was one of my fondest memories. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about how I can better impact my own community and how my community can better cater to my own human needs.

When the opportunity arose to have an internship in my senior year, I thought that I’d embark on a journey of communal and environmental self awareness. I took this opportunity to further explore the amazing atmosphere at the Emerald Village, to help me build a similar life for myself someday. This issue is important to me because I would like to improve my relationships and community, as well as the ones of the people around me. I wanted to see myself and others flourish with inspiration, self-improvement, and a love for the world and its people.

I was curious about the reason behind the creation of the Emerald Village, and the benefits the community receives from its existence. This evoked me to ask Bianca Heyming, one of my mentors at the Emerald Village,  to describe what she thought the eco-village meant to her and the community. Heyming describes the village’s mantra as  “A desire to live more connected. Not just to our food, but to also have a connection to people.”

When asked to describe EVO’s purpose, Heyming says that in her own eyes, she sees EVO as an eco community that engineers ways to be ecologically sound together as a living community. EVO strongly promotes and pursues a path of self reliance and self representation. EVO is home to all sorts of people from all kinds of cultures, religions, and personalities. There is no single religion or belief controlling them, as they are all represented as individuals. They all have their own property, beliefs, houses, money, etc.

I loved the idea of this intentional eco-community, and so my goal is to create a better understanding of intentional eco-villages so I can perhaps pursue a lifestyle similar to that represented at the Emerald Village, as well as helping to educate the world around me on how they can live similarly.  The heart of my research focuses on a question reflects that interest– How does an intentional  eco-community benefit its people, and possibly even the surrounding communities?

In order to find out if the original intentions and thoughts for the village were still alive and well in their community, research and interviews were conducted, and questionnaires were given to several residents (both permanent and temporary residents/volunteers).

The questionnaire administered to the residents is called the “Oxford Authentic Happiness Questionnaire”, and was created by two psychologists at Oxford University, Peter Hills and Michael Argyle. The questionnaire was administered anonymously during the month of May. It was a multiple-choice ranking depending on how they felt about the statements. They could either choose that they strongly, moderately, or slightly agreed or disagreed with each statement, which were worded either in a positive way or a negative way. Some real examples of the statements include “I feel that life is very rewarding” and “I don’t feel particularly pleased with the way I am”.

The same questionnaire was also then distributed and taken anonymously by high school students in their senior year, who are currently taking an environmental engineering class. The class is required, and the material taught and projects created are very similar to that of the work done at EVO. .

The results of the questionnaires from both groups of participants (EVO and the Environmental Engineering class) were compared.

STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO TO FIND OUT WHAT THE RESULTS OF THE TEST WERE!! Are EVO residents “happier” than the average person?