Imperfect Interconnectedness

During our first morning at Cloughjordan Ecovillage I was struck by the natural beauty of the landscape—the houses, interconnected meshes of reused materials, passive timber frame design, stone, and stucco are set amongst the tannic pines, sturdy oaks and abundance of wild flowers. It is, indeed, serene here and the pace of our modernized, technological lives seems to slow. I’ve been observing a mosaic of life so unlike my own: the sun rises, the grass rustles, crows caw as they fly over the village amphitheater, labyrinth, and small boys playing ball. My mind has not been jumping from sharp fragment to anxious fragment.  It is quiet. I am not used to this.

I find myself tangibly laughing—the kind that makes my stomach hurt. It reminds me of when I was little, how I would measure the day’s worth by how much dirt I had under my fingernails from playing. I have found myself not only engaging with other students but with a few of the ecovillagers as well. Mary, an ecovillage resident, told us, “The best thing about living in our ecovillage is the people, and the worst thing about living in the ecovillage is… the people.” Her wisely humorous words stuck with me because they do not idealize life in an intentional community nor community in general.

Our time living within the ecovillage has brought our small community of students closer together. Having two teams cook for the group was a chaotic joy that required us to listen and respect one another as well as have a fair amount of flexibility. While we walked to the market, I saw a number of ecovillagers outside enjoying the evening. I was surprised to see children playing together in nature, given that in the United States, many children at the elementary age are playing their Gameboys and watching T.V.

While composing our group’s meal out of locally sourced Irish food, my team members adjusted methods according to each person’s needs, whether it was making vegetarian burgers or gluten free pasta. Much like how Úna explained living in the ecovillage, our time working together was not easy, but immensely rewarding. And I thought, “Hey, maybe this is what it is all about: connection.” As a species we have become so detached from the earth and… each other. I have come to question whether our driveby coffees, microwave T.V. dinners and consumer culture can fill this void, or whether our consumer culture—advertised as the key to happiness and materialistic fulfillmen—is, ironically, the driving force of the void itself.

Cloughjordan Ecovillage is not perfect—their solar panels do not work for financial reasons, village proposals take a painstakingly long time to pass due to indecision, and not all villagers actively participate in all ecological practices and responsibilities. But no place and no person is perfect. Cloughjordan is making what I perceive to be a valiant attempt to reconnect with our humanness—our place in nature as an individualistic but profoundly dependent species on each other and our environment.

A Community in Unity

Every country is made up of various communities. In Ireland, one unpopular style of community I experienced was an ecovillage in Cloughjordan. Our tour guide, Úna, told me that despite their eco-friendly efforts, “A lot of people move here more for the strong sense of community” versus a passion to help the environment. I found this interesting because previously, I assumed everyone who lived here did so because they were passionate about nature. In this community, people decide to not cut the grass excessively and ride a bike instead of driving. They also have community places where people can leave items they no longer had a use for, such as toys, movies, and crafts. This demonstrates a strong sense of closeness because people were comfortable sharing, repurposing, and donating their personal belongings without expecting anything in return.

The ecovillage knows the grass can always be longer on the other side.

Another example of the strong sense of community here was in the Cloughjordan pubs. People would sit in a circle and share their musical abilities by singing and playing instruments freely. They helped one another finish songs by either jumping in to sing a verse or accompanying an instrument. The community was supportive and open-minded, even towards new people. Anyone who wanted to sing or play music was encouraged to and received support afterward.

This farmer is working selflessly. It is his contribution to the community.

Also, the farmers demonstrate an understanding of community because their work is selfless. They work long, stressful hours in strenuous conditions to provide food and resources to the village. They make a low minimum wage pay that does not match the physical labor they exert.

The ecovillage loves and supports Mother Nature. People and animals here can rejoice unified in one community because every creature is respected. Even Pa’s Django Ecohostel composts food in an effort to keep the community in the best condition possible because that will benefit everyone. By the end of my time at the ecovillage, I learned that this population as well as Cloughjordan as a whole, both exhibit a strong and healthy sense of community through their efforts to make their home a prosperous environment for everyone.

Ireland is a complex country that holds many different types of communities, specifically an ecovillage that offers many benefits to the people who live there.

Do You Want Brown Bread With That?

When I first sat down for a meal in the Ecovillage, Una brought out a plate of brown bread in one hand and butter in the other. Whether it was at the dinner table at home or a restaurant, brown bread found their way onto the dinner table each night. Even though brown bread was not the main course of the meal, I treated it as my main dish. Leaving me too full to finish the rest of my meal. Brown bread is easy to make, which is why it has been so popular with the Irish, now and in the past. All you need is, buttermilk, whole wheat flour, white flour, salt and baking soda. However, variations have been made of this recipe. It has even been made into ice cream. The trick to making brown bread is to mix the flour and other ingredients together, lifting it up high and letting it fall into the dish below. This allows the air to get into the ingredients, making it a fluffy and a light bread. Once all your ingredients are mixed in, you have to shape the bread. It is important to move the bread around as little as possible. This is different from making traditional white bread because white bread requires you to play with the dough as much as possible to shape it perfectly. Once your bread is mixed and shaped, a cross is cut into the top of the bread, allowing air to flow throughout the loaf. After it is cooked, your butter is placed on top and it is ready to be enjoyed.

Not only can brown bread be seen alone, before a meal, it can also be seen as a side dish to many main courses. Vegetable soup can be seen on almost every menu in Ireland. Vegetable soup is usually accompanied by a slice of brown bread, unless specified otherwise. The vegetable soup is brought out boiling from the pot straight to the dinner table. Waiting for the soup to cool down, I found myself dunking the brown bread into the vegetable soup. The combination of flavors between the vegetable soup and the brown bread, allowed them to compliment one another perfectly. When all the bread was dunked and eaten, the soup was then cool enough to begin eating with a spoon. Since the Irish love their soup at a boiling hot temperature, the brown bread allowed me to enjoy the warm soup, without burning my throat in the process.

Throughout the trip, I heard my fellow classmates make remarks such as, “Who would have thought brown bread would be so popular.” The reason is that the simple ingredients that are used in brown bread made it an easy meal to make when resources were low during the famine. Since then, brown bread has become an Irish statement food. Everyone has their own unique way to making their own brown bread, making it different each time you eat it. Which is what makes brown bread a unique part of their culture. Every meal you can taste the freshness of each slice of bread. The creamy spread of butter, melting on the surface of the brown bread, makes your mouth water uncontrollably the second the waitress or waiter brings the plate of brown bread over. Recipes are unique to each family, and they have been handed down from generation to generation, each different from one another. Living off the land, allows the people of Ireland to eat healthy, and use their environment to benefit their way of living. 


The Button Game

Ecovillage residents conserving water by drying clothes outdoors

Suddenly, the water stops. I whip around to face the shower faucet, perplexed and still half asleep. Did I break the shower? I push the button again and the water streams out, I go back to shampooing my hair. It stops, again. I push the button, the water continues. This cycle continues for five more minutes until I realize that in order to keep the water running I have to press the button every thirty seconds to ensure that the water won’t shut off.

Emerging from my shower, after having to push the button thirty two times throughout my shower, I am frustrated. To me, it is a large nuisance to have to continue to push the button. It is not until later I am able to understand and appreciate the importance of the button.

In the U.S., water is largely taken for granted. Specifically, within New England, where I was born and raised, the region is fortunate enough to have a generous supply of water which makes water shortages rare and infrequent. However, though it may appear that water is plentiful in the North East, appearances can be deceiving. The earth’s water supply is limited and cannot be taken for granted.

While on a tour of the Ecovillage, Davey, an Ecovillage resident, explains the reason behind the button. “How often do you turn on the shower, but don’t precede to get into it until minutes later, wasting all that precious water? The button ensures that this does not happen.” I never realized how much water I had been wasting through my day to day activities. Both the Ecovillage and Ireland as a whole have taught me to how to better conserve water and be more conscious of my actions. I’ll think twice before letting the run when I am not using it.



Tight-Knit Community

Ecovillage Center

“Not only do we know our neighbors names, and their children’s names, we know their pets’ names, too” Davey, an Ecovillage resident, exclaims proudly. He holds up his weathered hands, showing off where he calls home, as he stands in the center of the Ecovillage.

Smaller than my high school, the Ecovillage, located inside the village of Cloughjordan, is populated with a mere one hundred adults and fifty children. The village has fifty five homes and ten businesses. Each house differs drastically from the one next to it. Each is made from a different material and has a different layout. While walking through the village I pass a white washed apartment style building and next to it is an A-frame with blue shingles. At first glance, it appears as if the village has no congruencies. However, that is not the case. One of the reasons for the tight-knit community is because each and every resident has a common goal: to lower their own environmental and energy impacts on the earth.

As we pass each house, Davey gives us a detailed description of the owners. He tells us about where the people are from, their kids’ ages and names, etc. Sadly, this makes me realize how many of my neighbors names I do not know, let alone their occupations and ages.

The Ecovillage has one foot in the last century and the other in the digital age. It supports the best of both worlds. Davey puts it perfectly, “We have plenty of friends on Facebook, but none within our own neighborhoods.” Children run freely up and down the streets, instead of sitting inside their houses on their digital devices. The residents are often found sitting outside on picnic tables, enjoying the warm weather and mingling with each other. Aside from the positive environmental impacts the Ecovillage is accomplishing, it also is achieving a high sense of community for its residents, that cities such as Dublin and Galway are losing.

Phantom Energy

Out of nowhere, my laptop dies. My stomach drops.  This device holds my entire life. My pictures, my documents, my music, everything. I am flustered. I look around my room within the hostel at Cloughjordan for someone to help, but no one is around.

“It can’t be dead,” I mutter to myself, anxiously pressing the power button again and again trying to turn it back on. “It’s charging,” I tell myself. Or is it? I check the outlet and realize that, to my dismay, I did not turn the outlet switch “on.” Thus, the entire time I thought I was charging my laptop it was instead slowly dying. I roll my eyes at the nuisance of the on/off outlet switches.

However, later on, I realize the importance of switching the outlets off when not in use. While I had previously always been under the impression that when something wasn’t plugged in that electricity wasn’t being used. That is not the case. Though less electricity is being used when outlets are not in use, if the outlet is not “off” then electricity is still being wasted, this is called phantom energy. Unfortunately, in the U.S., outlets do not give the user the option to switch “off” and thus energy is constantly being used when it is not needed. The energy that is being used is around one to five watts. Though this seems small, it adds up.

“We do not have five earths, we only have one!” Peader, chairman of the Ecovillage, waves a finger at us angrily. The lack of on/off switches on many outlets in the U.S. is just one small example of how our country is operating as if the planet earth is dispensable. From now on I will always be sure to switch the outlets off when not in use, and unplug every device that is not currently being used or charged. Though the energy humans are burning through will not be reversed that easily, every small step counts.


“We have loads of friends on Facebook, but none in our streets”. During my time in the tightest knit community I have ever experienced, this quote was something that stuck with me the most. In a time when people measure their friends based on their social media followers, the ecosystem showed me the true meaning of friendship and community. While traveling through the rural parts of Ireland, we saw different examples of communities, and some stood together stronger than others. The ecovillage in Cloughjordan was our first experience witnessing an Irish community. With only one hundred and fifty people living in the eco village, they all knew each other very well, enough to know everyone’s background story. Residents of the eco village, have the same interest and ways of living. They share a bond of trying to shrink down their ecological footprint, and help save our planet. Their sense of community stuck with me, because it is one unlike any I have seen in America. Yes, there are rural towns that come together, but not every neighbor has the same goal in mind. The eco villages goal is to raise awareness about the global climate change and ways to live in an eco friendly environment. While

staying at the hostel in the eco village, we experienced how the residents live. It gave us a great first hand experience and opened our eyes to see how much water we waste, and some realized their personal lack of recycling back in the states. Not only do they all have the same goal in mind, but they all act like a giant family. All the kids played outside together, riding their bikes, playing basketball and teaching themselves how to unicycle. Even with access to technology, the kids played outside and enjoyed playing with their friends. As much as we experienced communities, we became one. Many of us Roger Williams’ students came on this trip knowing maybe one person and having a few familiar faces. Despite our different backgrounds and majors, we came together to become a community that represented Roger Williams outside of the classroom. I am thankful we also were able to become part of the ecovillages’ community during our short period of time spent there together.  

Working as a Community


Many people say they want to live their life the most adequate way possible. Cloughjordan, located in the western part of Ireland strives to actually achieve this goal. In this town there is an ecovillage, that works together towards living a more sustainable lifestyle. Everyone that lives there has a different role towards helping the community live a more sustainable lifestyle, this task simply could not be done only by one person. For example, there are a variety of business people to help the community’s economy. Pa, the owner of Django helps draw people into the ecovillage and gives them a place to stay at his hostel. One of the the natives of the ecovillage told a group of us about a “one of a kind bakery.” At the top of a large hill, the ecovillage meets the town Cloughjordan. There is a famous shop that makes fresh bread. One of the men that works there uses a tactic from hundreds of years ago to cook his bread. He is the only person in Ireland to continue to make bread this way. This is another popular business in the area that brings in people and money.

As the days went by in the ecovillage we were introduced to a variety of people that lived in the village. This was not simply because we were formally introduced, but because everyone in the village had something positive and informative to say about one of their neighbors. A friendly women who gave us a tour around the village told us we were going to meet Peadar one of the days we were in the village. Peadar is in the charge of the more political part of village. He speaks to groups of students and visitors about how to decrease their carbon footprint when they go back to America or their home country. He explains to visitors that a carbon footprint is how many “planets” you take up by your use of food, carbon emissions, energy, water, and electricity. His passion towards this change is clear. At many points in his discussion Peadar asked us “How can you do this in America?” While he tries to enforce his beliefs to different groups of people his friend and coworker comes with him to help inform people about the ecovillage and to support Peadar and his work. Nothing in the ecovillage is accomplished by a single person, everything is a group effort. Visiting Cloughjordan I would not have learned as much as I did about everyone’s role in their community if it wasn’t for everyone’s openness and positivity about one another and where they lived.




Shelby’s Gallery

Kate’s Gallery