Kailash Ecovillage Offers a Sustainable Way of Living

Equipped with solar panels, rainwater channels, gardens, and humanure composting, this sustainable housing complex just might be the community of the future.

By Kailla Coomes June 16, 2016

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Composed of a cheerful orange house and a blue apartment building, the Kailash Ecovillage sits on the corner of SE Holgate and 37th. Bees buzz around a garden filled with aromatic roses and endless rows of exotic flowers. 

Maitri and Ole Ersson own and run this village. They purchased it nine years ago with the goal of turning what was known as the “meth apartments” into a place of community and sustainability. Today, Kailash houses 60 residents, including families and students. Most community members live in one-bedroom apartments; the space also features a community room, laundry facilities, and a meditation space. Rent is affordable; the most expensive unit is $800 a month, including utilities.

Maitri, who sports a sun hat and a shirt that reads “vegan,” glows when she talks about Kailash. She and husband Ole always wanted to be a part of a shared community, a place where everyone contributes and communicates. Maitri has outlined five goals for Kailash; she hopes that by achieving these goals, the village will achieve full self-sufficiency.  

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  1. Create Community

 Each resident joins one of seven teams: bike, garden, compost and recycling, library, parking, sustainable projects, and web. The bike team works on repairing residents’ bikes; the library team catalogs the community media collection; the compost and recycling team audits dumpsters to study ways of reducing landfill waste; etc.

  1. Grow Ample Food

Kailash is half living area, half garden space. In addition to lavish amounts of blooming flowers, the gardens feature 46 individual plots overflowing with squash, pumpkins, zucchini, and other tasty produce. Raspberries, blueberries, and grapes grow along the gates, and 53 fruit trees provide additional snacks. Kailash’s neighbors are invited to join the fun in the shared community garden space.

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Kailash requires residents to do one thing: recycle. They strive to achieve zero waste, and regularly donate superfluous items to charity. Residents can compost at the yard debris and compost area. The compost, once decomposed, is used as soil for the garden. They also create humanure—that’s composted human feces—but this particular eco-friendly practice is not required for the squeamish.

  1. Gain Solar Power

Seventy-two solar panels sit on top of the apartment building. Some of this energy powers the community’s laundry facilities; PGE currently buys the rest and sells it back to customers.

  1. Save Rainwater

The Kailash community has installed three rain channels and a pipe that goes along the roof. This set-up directs rainwater into swells, which are used to water the garden plots. The team has also dug a 104-foot well full of potable water. 

The Takeaway:

Maitri and Ole have worked tirelessly to make Kailash Ecovillage a place they call home. They know that some of their ideas may be considered radical, but they’re prepared to stand by them. They have created a space that relies on the earth to survive, and in this tumultuous time, who knows if this will be what the future holds?

Want to see for yourself? Kailash offers tours every first Saturday of the month at 3 p.m. 

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