The Brithdir Mawr community discovered in 1998, in the Pembrokeshire National Park, Wales, commits itself to a life centred on three key principles.
- Sustainability: living a lifestyle that leaves the environment better, or at least no worse.
- People: living a lifestyle were the benefits of collective living, outweigh any disadvantage; living in such a way that working together is easier and more enjoyable than living and working separately.
- Education: living a lifestyle where experience and knowledge can be shared to help both the community and others realise a more sustainable existence.
These are laudable goals but how do they translate into the more practical aspects of living a truly green and environmentally friendly way of life.
To begin with the community is not connected to the mains electricity-grid, creating instead their own mains power from renewable energy sources such as the wind, sun and water. A combination of wind powered turbines and crude hydro-electric water units provide, through a 12-volt supply, albeit a little dim, enough lighting for the whole community. While there are no fridges or deep freezers, the community still has plenty of power most of the time for many modern items such as DVD players, game consoles, wireless broadband and power tools.
Efficient and always conscious of their power consumption, the Brithdir Mawr Community estimates that it uses only 1/20th of the electricity used by the ‘average person’ each day.
Heating, cooking and domestic hot water is provided from solar water heaters and wood-fired boilers. Most of the 36-tons of wood used every year come from coppice woods cut every 10-years from within the communities 85-acres of land, providing an endless supply of carbon-neutral renewable fuel.
Two half-acre gardens contribute much of the community’s food; based on a four course rotation system, these traditional organic gardens provide an excellent supply of seasonal vegetables. There are also poly-tunnels for growing salad and some land has been set aside for field-scale crops. Nothing is ever wasted, not even human waste. The toilets are separate from the living quarters but otherwise they look similar to any other modern toilet. However, instead of flushing you simply throw a handful of sawdust down the pan. After several months of aerobic composting, an excellent supply of manure is ready for use in the gardens.
Resembling something from ancient Celtic times, one of the most interesting features of the Brithdir Mawr Community is undoubtedly the circular shaped, eco-friendly roundhouse. From the beginning, the premise for its construction was that it must generate all of its own power and all of the material used should be natural and biodegradable.
Cement could not be used because of pollution during the manufacture process. Instead it was built from sustainable wood from Brithdir Mawr. The walls are a combination of logs, straw and mud. A straw insulated turf roof is laid on an old rubber pond liner, which in turn rests on large wooden timbers. The windows are from 100 percent recycled double-glazing, with solar power and wind turbine providing the electricity; water is piped directly from the mountain and any grey water is handled by reed bed.
For a fascinating and more detailed look at this unique community visit the Brithdir Mawr Community official site.