HistoryThe Findhorn community was founded by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean in 1962. When they first came to northeast Scotland in 1957, Peter and Eileen Caddy started to manage the Cluny Hill Hotel, close to Findhorn, which quickly became successfull. After several years, they moved with their three sons and Dorothy to a caravan park in the nearby coastal village of Findhorn and, in order to feed the family, Peter started to grow vegetables on the land which was of very poor quality.
They were all practising regular meditations and, in her meditations, Eileen was receiving guidance that Peter followed in the garden. It resulted in incredible results: they indeed grew huge plants, vegetables and flowers, and more-particularly the 40-pound cabbages, which became a legend for many horticultural experts.
At the end of the 60s, other people came to join the original group which grew into a small community, whose objective was to garden in harmony with nature and live their spirituality. The first community buildings were then built: the Park Sanctuary, which is the main meditation room, and the Community Centre, where the community can meet and eat.
With the help of David Spangler, a new member arrived in the community in 1970, a learning programme was established to give the opportunity to experience the values of this community and to take part in its daily activities.
In 1975, the community, represented by the charity Findhorn Foundation, purchased Cluny Hill Hotel to receive workshops and for members’ accommodation, and in 1983 purchased the caravan park in Findhorn.
In the late 1980s, the Ecovillage Project at Findhorn began, with the installation of ecological buildings, wind turbines and a biological sewage treatment plant.
Regenerative agricultureFrom the beginning of Findhorn history, producing food in harmony with nature has always been a main objective for the community: it is still the case nowadays and a lot of the community members act in this direction.
Findhorn's gardens, called Cullerne Gardens, covers more than seven acres and produce a lot of vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruits, which supplies the Findhorn Foundation kitchens (serving vegetarian meals for at least 100 persons for lunch and dinner, every day). One acre is also covered in polytunnels. Around 10 persons work daily in the gardens and they are really often joined by volunteers participating to education programmes and whose planning contains participation to the ecovillage activity. Only organic methods are used to grow vegetables. Working in Findhorn's gardens is not an easy task as it requires to be in a good physical condition and can be demanding when the Scottish weather is not nice. Each worker get a free meal in the Findhorn's kitchens for each half-day work.
Besides, co-housing clusters have shared gardens in which the residents grow food in a sustainable way for their own consumption.
Cycle of waterAn ecological water treatment system was built in Findhorn in 1995 as a pilot project (first of this kind in Europe). This plant, based on an engineered system called the Living Machine because of the use of plants and animals in the purification process, is designed to treat sewage from the population of up to 500 people living at the Findhorn Ecovillage (both grey and black water, as the toilet type used in Findhorn is with flush and not composting toilets). It can treat up to 65 cubic meters of waste water a day.
The conventional sewage treatment plants are chemically and energy intensive systems. On the contrary, the Living Machine copies nature’s purifying mechanisms and utilizes a set of sequenced biological processes. This leads to a low energy, aesthetic, cost effective and robust (because of its low technology content) system.
The principle is simple: the sewage arrives in a greenhouse containing a series of tanks. Diverse communities of bacteria, algae, micro-organisms, numerous species of plants and trees, snails, and fish interact as whole ecologies in these tanks and biofilters. These mirror processes that occur in the natural world, but do so more intensively. At the end of the series of tanks, the resulting water is pure enough to discharge directly into the sea or to be recycled.
Renewable EnergyFindhorn ecovillage mainly bases its energy supply on 3 energy sources:
- Wind: 3 second-hand (firstly installed on a Danish Island in 1995) wind turbines are installed with a total capacity of 675kW
- Solar: an increasing number of houses in Findhorn are equipped with photovoltaic solar panels (producing electricity) and solar thermal panels (heating water)
- Wood: a district heating plant has been installed in order to provide heat to some of the ecovillage buildings from biomass
One of the particularities of Findhorn ecovillage is that the community owns its own private electricity grid: therefore, Findhorn has only one connection point with the national electricity grid and all the buildings in Findhorn are connected to the internal electrical grid.
When there is wind and the wind turbines run, the produced electricity is used on-site: if the electricity production exceeds the demand then the surplus is exported to the Scottish grid, so others can use the electricity. When there is no wind and the photovoltaic panels do not produce enough energy, electricity is imported from the grid.
Overall, Findhorn covers the majority of its electricity needs: in 2019, Findhorn was able to meet 95% of the ecovillage electricity demand from the local production.
TransportSustainable transport is probably one of the biggest challenge in Findhorn: indeed, Findhorn offers a wide variety of courses and conferences, which involves that a lot of visitors come to Findhorn from different parts of the world (UK, Germany, France, USA, Canada, Brazil...). As people mainly use planes to come to Findhorn, the impact of the visits in term of carbon emissions in therefore really important. Even if it is not completely a sustainable solution, the Findhorn Foundation encourages to offset their carbon emissions.
Other initiatives have been implemented to reduce the impact of local transport: the Moray Carshare has been created in 2007 as a community-based car club aiming at providing affordable transport for its members in a way that minimises negative impact on the environment.
The car club is managed in a democratic way using the Sociocracy methodology and the small financial surplus realised every year is reinvested in the car club.
The club gathers almost 200 members and owns 20 cars (including seven electric cars, powered by the wind turbines) and 12 electric bicycles. The cars are placed at 8 different locations in and around Findhorn, so that the cars can benefit to the ecovillagers and to others. The members use online booking system and paying according to how much a vehicle is used.
Green building technologyMore than 100 ecological buildings have been erected in Findhorn to date and many new buildings are planned: it provides very diverse examples of ecological buildings. Indeed, Findhorn has identified the construction of new ecological buildings and the retrofitting of existing buildings as a cost-effective and efficient solution in response to climate change.
Different ecological buildings types have been experimented:
- the straw bale construction which uses bales or bundles of straw as the main construction element
- the "Earthship" system, using recycled car tires, has been used to build the electric stations of the ecovillage
- the Barrel Cluster, a group of houses constructed from recycled whisky vats used in a local distillery
- The Moray Art Center (an art exhibition space opened in 2008) was built and equipped with photovoltaic panels supplying electricity and ground source heat pumps supplying heating. This building is considered as an example in terms of local materials use and sustainable craftsmanship
- Soilse, a cohousing zero carbon project was established between 2011 and 2014. It includes a biomass district heating, supplying heat to the 6 buildings of the project, and all the houses have efficient insulation and triple glazing.
- the construction of East Whins, a co-housing neighborhood, started in 2012: 20 passive solar design and highly insulated houses were built
Based on its construction experience and on research, Findhorn published "Simply Build Green", a technical guide to ecological housing design and construction, which helped the ecovillage to become a major resource for environmental education in the UK and internationally.
BiodiversityThe community of Findhorn aims at having a positive impact of the biodiversity, in and around the ecovillage. Different initiatives exists in this purpose: for instance, the Findhorn Hinterland Trust is a charity working on the preservation of natural land in the Findhorn area. The organisation collaborates with landowners to promote environmental protection, educate the local community and wider community, the building of local community through the offering of activities related to land protection and the provision of recreational facilities and activities.
Nurture mindfulness and personal growthSince the creation of Findhorn community, meditation has always been one of the main pillars of the day-to-day life of the community. 3 guided meditations are held daily, starting the early morning meditation at 6:30am, in the Main Sanctuary, the community's principal mediation room, built in 1968. It gives the opportunity for ecovillagers to take time in mindfulness: interested people can join and sit in the Main Sanctuary for half-an-hour to meditate.
Once a month, community meditations are also organised in the Universal Hall: the ecovillagers have the chance to gather and meditate all together in the Universal Hall. More than one hundred people attend this event: the energy emerging from these meditation sessions is really powerful.
Another example of the daily mindfulness practising is the blessing realised before every meal (lunch and dinner) served in the Community Center (the Community Center is a kitchen, dining room and meeting space for the community and the guests). To perform the blessings, all the people joining to take a meal usually gather around the tables where the dishes are installed and take some minutes to think about the beings, living or not living, which enabled to have the food prepared for the community. The energy emerging from such a blessing is quite strong and enables the participants to have a clear break between the activity they were doing before and the lunch/dinner.
Engage actively to protect communities and natureThe Findhorn Foundation is associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations and has representatives in New York who attend UN NGO sessions and participate to several working groups and committees.
Besides, the Findhorn Foundation is a founder member of the Global Ecovillage Network, which develops a strong worldwide network between ecovillages and shares information between and about ecovillages.
Several initiatives have also been implemented in Findhorn in order to protect nature. For instance, the company Trees for Life has been created by a Findhorn inhabitant in order to rewild the Scottish Highlands. Indeed, Scotland was once quite completely covered with the Caledonian Forest. This environment was unique and has been mostly destructed over the years by the human activity. Trees for Life aims at restoring this environment by planting new trees.
Celebrate life and diversity through artMany places are devoted to art in Findhorn! Several examples can be presented here:
- The wind turbines of the community have been painted in a project coordinated by a local artist: indeed, local groups of children and adults could paint the 3 wind turbines with three distinct themes related to nature and environment
- An outside amphitheatre, called the Singing Chamber, has been built in the community by an artist living in the community. This completely decorated place has been designed so that the audience can get the best of the show
- the Universal Hall is a place hosting a lot of events, for the community but also for the region, as it is one of the biggest auditorium in North-east Scotland. The construction of the Universal Hall, done predominantly by the voluntary work of Findhorn guests and residents, have lasted 9 years in total. With a 300 seats theatre, it hosts workshops, conferences, community meetings, theatre and concert: for instance, the famous Scottish Chamber Orchestra comes regularly to play in the Universal Hall. The Universal Hall is also home to a dance studio, a music practice room, meditation rooms and a recording studio.
Once a month, community sharing are also organised in the Universal Hall. All the community is given the opportunity to share what they want: some sing, others dance... This event is particularly important for the community as it builds a strong community idea.
Reconnection with NatureNature is everywhere in Findhorn: Findhorn is completely surrounded with nature (dunes, forests, Findhorn's bay) and some of the buildings are completely integrated in the existing nature: this is for example the case of the Natural Sanctuary, another meditation room built in 1986 mostly from local and recycled materials (the turf is from a local building site closeby, the stone from several local quarries and the wood for the benches and the windows are old whisky barrel staves).
Wealth through sharing and collaborationThe Boutique enables Findhorn's inhabitants to exchange objects: this kind of "swap-shop" is perfect both for givers and seekers. Givers can release clean and functional items they don't use anymore. Seekers are happy to find what they want.
It's well-known in Findhorn that when you're looking for something, you just need to walk in front of the Boutique and open your eyes: what you're looking for will wait for you at the Boutique's entrance!
Social entrepreneurshipFindhorn's community quickly realised that it was necessary to expand social entrepreneurship in the community as it creates local employment.
Based on this observation, the cooperative Ekopia (see description in the paragraph related to Banking and Exchange systems) decided to create a new building specifically designed to support the creation of local businesses. It provides all the services needed to create a new business: offices, meeting rooms and spaces for food production/craft activities.
Social entrepreneurs benefit of an adapted environment which facilitates collaboration and innovation and can be advised by business creation experts.
Several companies have already been created in Findhorn and benefit of the positive social business environment:
- Trees for Life aims at rewilding the Scottish Highlands by enabling the restoration of the unique Caledonian Forest environment which once covered much of Scotland
- Findhorn Flower Essences produces essences & remedies from Scottish flower
- the Newbold House is a retreat center and hosts workshops and wellness programs
- the Findhorn Bay Holiday Park offers holiday accommodations in the Findhorn community (in eco-chalets, caravans or eco-cabins)
Banking and Exchange systemsIn order to promote rural regeneration and support sustainable economies, the community-oriented cooperative Ekopia was created in 2001.
More precisely, its missions are the following:
- Providing financial and technical support and business advice for local businesses and organisations
- Supporting the ecovillage development and infrastructure services, for example by buying land in trust for community benefit and create affordable housing projects
- Providing ethical and ecological community investment schemes
- Issuing local currency that provides support for local charities and businesses
Investment SchemesOne of Ekopia's objective is to support ethical and ecological projects through investment schemes. To do so, the needed money is raised through community shares: Ekopia's members are given the possibility to invest in different proposed projects with different investment rates, depending on the assessed risk.
It is also possible for members to invest into the Findhorn Ecovillage Project Share Fund: the raised money will then be re-invested in various projects which benefit the Findhorn Community. This investment fund enables to spread the investor’s risk between the different projects.
Since its creation, Ekopia has enabled investments in several community projects including the erection of the 3 wind turbines, the buy-out of the community store (called Phoenix Store) and the construction of affordable housing in the ecovillage.
Local currencyIn 2002, the community currency EKO was launched as an alternative to £s Sterling (1 Eko = £1) in economic transactions.
Currently, there are 20,000 Ekos in circulation and the notes are available in one, five, ten and twenty denominations. The Eko currency is accepted in several places in and around the community (shop, restaurant, community administration, café, ...)
Total trading turnover of the notes is estimated at >£100,000 per annum.
From the sale of the notes to community members, Ekopia has made low interest loans to various community organisations.
Responsible production, consumption and tradeFindhorn's community tries to have the best positive impact on production, consumption and trade, mainly through several initiatives:
- the Phoenix Shop is a community-owned shop proposing food, books and crafts, locally-sourced wherever possible
- the Phoenix Café is serving organic meals and drinks in a nice atmosphere
- Big Sky Print is a printing company located in Findhorn. It has invested in greener technologies in their printing processes, limited usage of chemicals when cleaning the presses and increased usage of recycled and sustainable paper
- Claysongs pottery
- a weaving studio
- the Park Pottery was founded in the early 1970s and is run by a group of potters and ceramicists who produce objects from clay
- the Bakehouse produces bakery and pizzas from local and seasonal products
- the restaurant La Bohème serves food and drinks
Embrace diversity and build community cohesionThe creation of the Findhorn community is quite singular as it was initially organised as a spiritual centre of learning and not as an ecovillage.
Indeed, from the beginning in 1962 to the early 90s, people were joining the community with a common goal: to be involved in the spiritual community (organised around the charity organisation Findhorn Foundation).
From the 90s, people started to come in Findhorn without wanting to join the Findhorn Foundation: they were not interested in the first objectives of the Foundation and started to create the first basis of the ecovillage, making the community larger and more diverse. A community association, named the New Findhorn Association (NFA) was formed in 1999 to serve as an umbrella organisation encouraging development of the community.
From 2015, based on the observation that the community has grown and changed since its creation and that more transparency and collaboration was needed, it was decided to create a Community Change Working Group in order to:
- Clarify the vision and purposes of the community
- Bring more transparency and inclusion in the community
- Propose new structures in order to better collaborate, make collective decision and share information in the community
- Engage the community into the changes
The first objective of this working group was to propose a "Whole Community Purpose" statement to the community members in order to reflect the common vision of the community with a view to:
- Enabling the members to feel like they are part of a coherent community
- Having a common objective to guide day-to-day actions and long-term decisions
- Enabling new organisations or members to assess if they are in agreement with the community purposes
This statement has then been submitted to the community members, so that they can give their feedbacks and they can start to appropriate it.
The chosen "Whole Community Purpose" is:
Co-Creating a Thriving and Loving World
As a conscious community, we strive to demonstrate a practical spirituality in harmony with nature, and to play our part to positively transform humanity and the Earth.
The purpose of the whole Community is to be a place of inspiration and transformation – a centre of love and light, a centre of fiery hope. We hold a positive vision for humanity and the Earth, a commitment to deep and practical spirituality and to true ecology – caring for each other and caring for our planet. We seek to raise awareness individually and collectively in our day-to-day activities and radiate this out into the world. We hold a deep longing for humanity to live in peace and with gratitude and respect for the natural world.
We are a living, dynamic, practical experiment, building and seeking to demonstrate in physical form what is possible by working together as an intentional Community. We seek to create and hold spaces that are caring for the soul – places of beauty where we learn and practice the healing power of love. We seek to be visionary, vital, vibrant and viable on this Earth.
Part of our history and spiritual architecture has been three guiding principles for how to live and work in our Community. These principles are: inner listening, work is love in action, and co-creation with the intelligence of Nature.
They continue to guide us today as articulated in our Common Ground statement. Individually we respond in different ways to the call of this centre. We welcome this diversity. Together we aspire to respond to the call of the world, to the call of our time.
Accountable communicationProposing tools to facilitate information sharing in the community was also one of the main objective of the Community Change Working Group formed in 2015: indeed, sharing information between the community members is the first step to enable active citizenship and more engagement of the members.
The first tool proposed by the working group was the implementation of a mind map of the community, available online for all members: on this map, all the organisations of Findhorn community are represented, with their objectives and activities detailed and the connections existing between each others.
The aim of this map is to increase transparency, enable members to have a better understanding of the community and access to up-to-date information.
The map is available here : http://findhorn.cc/map
The Rainbow Bridge is the weekly magazine of the Findhorn community. It is a good way for both community members to exchange information and official organisations to submit information to the community. The newspaper is available by subscription to paper and electronic format and can also be bought in paper format on Friday mornings in the General Office and Phoenix community stores.
Every Friday morning when the Rainbow Bridge is published, people cannot wait for the new edition!
Participatory leadership and governanceWhen the community organisation NFA was created, the following decision-making process was implemented: 2 Listeners Conveners and up to 12 volunteer councillors are elected by the members to form a group named NFA Council: this council is aimed at addressing various community issues.
In 2015, the Community Change Working Group was also meant to propose new structures to facilitate collaboration and collective decision-making in the community.
This work is still under progress but a first restructuring of the decision-making organisation has been proposed to the community at the end of 2016.
This new governance integrates some values of Sociocracy with the implementation of a Coordination Circle serving as a central platform for transparent collaboration. This circle aims at addressing all community-wide issues and holding the purpose, well-being and direction of the whole community.
The Coordination Circle is made up of 8 people in total, 2 people each from 4 different circles representing all the actors in the Findhorn Community:
- The Organisational Stakeholder Circle, representing the organisations involved in day to day activities and services in the community
- The Individual Members’ Organisation, representing individual community members
- 2 more specific organisations that are responsible for particularly large parts of services and infrastructure in the community
From the 2 persons representing each organisation, one acts as a downlink, responsible for informing their organisation about activities in the Coordination Circle. The second acts as an uplink, responsible for carrying the voices and perspectives of their organisation into the activities of the Coordination Circle.
External persons can also be invited to the Circle meetings according to the needs created by each issue addressed.
The Coordination Circle will meet when needed in order to develop strategies and plans to tackle collective issues. It will be also responsible for providing easily accessible up-to-date information about its own activities as well as the different organisations of the community, their responsibilities and what they make decisions about, to facilitate the involvement of all community members.
Holistic education and healthcareOne of the Findhorn Foundation principles is that the learning process should be based on "living education", which means education from direct experience: therefore, the opportunities to learn can be met anytime in each day and with every person or situation met.
The Findhorn Foundation welcomes more than 2,000 guests each year who take part of several learning programmes offered in Findhorn. These programmes are an important part of the community's work and bring up to 80% of the Foundation's income each year.
The most proposed programme is the Experience Week, which lasts seven days and proposes experience of spiritual practice, participation in the community tasks (in the kitchens and gardens for example) and sharing group consciousness. It is a renowned way for participants to better know their inner selves and to discover the community.
Other programmes enable to deepen personal and community experience or covers specific areas such as ecology, arts and spiritual practices.
Most of Findhorn's children go to the Drumduan School, situated close to the ecovillage: this school is a Steiner School which provides education based on experience, nature connection and creativity.
There are several ways to visit Findhorn's community:
- probably the best way to have a first experience in the community is to participate to the experience week: during seven days, you'll be integrated in a group and will have the opportunity to directly participate to the community works (by helping the cooking team for example), to learn more about the community and to share inspiring experiences with the other participants. I could not participate to this program but could meet a lot of participants and they were particularly enthusiastic about the program
- if you don't have 7 days to spent in the Experience Week program, you can directly come to Findhorn ecovillage and have your own tour of the community. Some guided tour are also organized and you can also participate to the community tasks for 1 or 2 days (short term guest program).
- if you want to spend a night or more in Findhorn to be more immersed in the community, some accommodations are available in Findhorn: click here to see the list of local B&B. The Findhorn Bay Holiday Park also offers accommodation in caravans and chalets.