Life in the Eco-Hood

The Ecohood

My home here in Prescott is in a low- to middle-income neighborhood about a mile from downtown.  The historically Mexican area is bordered on three sides by a creek, and this geographic isolation has allowed it to escape the pressures of development that are sweeping through the rest of town. But recently, the neighborhood has begun to see a transformation of a completely different sort: Prescott College students and other green-leaning residents have begun to settle in the area’s small, cheaply built tract homes and retrofit them for a green lifestyle. Started by 30-something permaculture teacher Andy Millison, the movement has taken off so much in the last few years that locals have (somewhat uncreatively) taken to calling the area the “Eco-Hood“.

But London this ain’t – the Eco-Hood has nary a hybrid or solar panel in sight. With a decidedly low-tech, DIY approach, these green homesteaders are instead investing in chickens, rainwater catchment systems, straw-bale insulation, and passive solar-heated greenhouses; some have even gone so far as to abandon their house and live in yurts or sheds in their yard. There’s an almost palpaple competition amongst the eco-hooders to reduce their consumption of energy, imported food, and material possessions.

Even within the sustainability movement, the residents of the Eco-Hood are clearly on the fringe, living a near-ascetic lifestyle in the name of the environment. But as unique as it is, there’s one part of this story I’ve seen before: though Prescott is worlds away from my Brooklyn apartment, the demographic shift underway in the Eco-Hood – young alternative white folks moving in to a low-income minority community – is uneasily familiar. Am I living in the first neighborhood in the country to undergo “greentrification”? It’s too soon to say. The ultimate success or failure of the Eco-Hood will rest on how successful the new residents are in crossing the substantial cultural divide that separates them from their Mexican immigrant neighbors. Sustainability is to a large extent about community, and if the eco-homesteaders are ignoring the issues of 80% of the neighborhood’s residents, they aren’t truly building one.

The Eco-Hood could be the first signs of a potent movement – or it could peter out within the year, remembered only as a naive experiment in the early days of the Green Rennaissance. But either way, the urgent desire of its residents for a healthy, creative, and self-sufficient lifestyle should be an inspiration to us all. For all the fanfare stirred up by the green movement, we still live in a society dominated by consumerism and its rampant excesses. In a vicious circle, our luxuries become necessities as we’re indundated with yet more luxuries to desire. At some point, this cycle has got to be broken. The Eco-Hooders have done it. Can the rest of us?

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2 thoughts on “Life in the Eco-Hood

  1. jessi says:

    so isn’t greentrification kind of a paradox? the whole point of gentrification is that those moving in ram up the “quality of life” aka the number of starbucks and barnes and noble and bougie restaurants and all that shit, raise rents, and push out the poor former residents. but if the people moving in are even less likely to patronize gentrifying business or pay for luxury condos than the original residents, why would business or real-estate developers have any interest? and aren’t they real gentrifying force, rather than young hip urbanites? the hipsters are just the catalyst.

  2. Bennett says:

    I bet the 40s in the Eco-Hood are amazing.

    I can’t see this expanding trend of sustainable living negatively treading on immigrants the way we see people getting displaced and ignored in the city. While they may aspire to live in more developed areas and live an American consumer lifestyle, I think immigrants would be just as attracted to the idea of saving money (and living by one’s own means) as poor students are. So yeah, hopefully people can reach out to their neighbors, or just try to get people informed and interested in how they’re living sustainably.

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