Ecological community Hallingelille – an overview

Hallingelille is an ecovillage in the heart of Sealand, Denmark. The village started roughly 15 years ago on the terrain of an old chicken and pig farm with several hectares of pasture land. Now, over 50 adults and around 20 children are happily living here in community. The grassy pasture land has been transformed to forest, a lake, vegetable gardens and housing plots. Many communal facilities are shared, like a multi-purpose communal building with guest rooms, kitchen and gym, a sauna, a music room, horse stables, a big playing ground and much more. Over the 15 years of its existence many things have changed, original dreams transformed, members have left and many new came in. Now, the community spirit feels alive and ecological living in community has been made a reality for the inhabitants. A short introduction of the ecovillage.

An aerial view of Hallingelille ecovillage (taken a couple of years ago)

Communal life
The first building to be build in the ecovillage was the communal building in the centre of the plot. This space is the heart of community life and serves as meeting space primarily. The building offers space for a kitchen, laundry machines, diner tables, a sauna, a big gym space for physical activities, a therapy room, a bathroom and two guest bedrooms that can be used by all guests of the ecovillage. They also share a music room which is build into the old chicken farm and which has all the equipment in place to play with a band. A pasture and stable for horses is also shared. When transforming the pasture land of the original farm, they chose to make a third of the land back to forest. Now, about fifteen years after planting the first trees, it already feels like a forest: with mossy floor and trees up to 10 metres. This year was the first year they had to take down some trees which had been planted as fast-growing forest-starting trees, in order to provide more space for the tree species they wanted to grow. The forest is now already a diverse mix of trees and many different animals love to visit. The lake was created with originally the intention to use it as rainwater storage to be used for grey-water systems in the houses. However, it is now just used for swimming and to dip into after a hot sauna.

A look at the sauna with the lake behind it.

At Hallingelille they have communal dinners every Friday and Sunday evening, to which about a third to half of the community members come. On Wednesday evenings they are testing something new recently: a pool of 18 community members is having diner in small groups of 6 in all the different houses. This initiative was started as especially the newer community members felt they didn’t really get to know all of their neighbours nor see all the different houses from the inside. Other than the communal diners, they have a working day for the community every other month in which they work on maintenance or construction projects. For example, past working day they were cutting down some trees in their forest. Community member Liise tells me that especially on those days she really feels a community vibe in the village. All community members have to put around 40 hours every year into the community and take part in some working groups. The working groups are small committees of people who take care of different communal aspects, like the gardens, waste, festivities, tours around the village, etc.

A friday evening communal diner at Hallingelille. They hold communal diners like this every friday and sunday, about a quarter of the members joins in. The community members take turns cooking.
The communal building of Hallingelille. Build with a wooden log structure and completely heated by a single mass oven.

Housing and sustainability
At Hallingelille there are several different types of housing. As the ecovillage started with the existing farm, this is where most people have at some point lived. Right now the farm is organised as a commune with eight adults and a child renting rooms from the owner. Apart from this, most of the houses are privately owned with a small plot of private land around it. Inhabitants got a private mortgage to build their own dreamhouses on a small plot in the ecovillage. This has created a fun variety of very different styles of houses, though all are build with ecological materials and sustainable technologies. The private houses are mostly inhabited by families, but some owners also rent out rooms to other ecovillage members, creating more small communes. Then there is one other communal building in Hallingelille, referred to as “the old peoples home”. This home was build based on a dream to also house senior residents in the ecovillage. The apartments in this building are only rented out to seven elderly people. The original dreams of also making a nursing house and more communal houses did not materialize, partly due to the crisis in 2008. Most houses also have a slightly larger living area than originally intended.

A look at some of the houses in Hallingelille.
A wooden briquete stove in one of the houses, this stove provides heat for the entire house.

The types of ecological materials used while building the houses are many. Some houses have a wooden geodesic dome structure with granulated wood insulation, others have a traditional scandinavian wooden log structure. Then there are three houses constructed with hempcrete, the first three in all of Denmark. This is a type of wall made out of hemp, which insulates very well and is CO2 positive. Many houses have clay plastering on the inside as well as on the outside, covered with a type of chalk plaster to make it waterproof. Some examples of the many different technologies used for heating are mass ovens, woodpellet heaters coupled to either floor heating or radiators, heat from the soil combined with a heat pump and, in summertime, solar boilers. Their waste water is treated by a willow field just on the edge of the village. Some houses have also installed a grey water system with rainwater catchment for the toilets and washing machines. For electricity there are some solar panels, but the community is mostly dependent on sustainable electricity from the grid. In a later blog I will explore the technologies used at Hallingelille in more depth.

Solar panels placed on the original farm. Which is now also equipt with a pellet heater, back-up electrical heating, solar boilers, and rainwater catchment with a grey water system.

The inhabitants and their occupations
The inhabitants are a beautiful collective of people. When asked for their reason of moving to the ecovillage, most have grown up living in communties or collectives and do not wish to live alone. Others had more the dream of living with a small ecological footprint. The members are of a wide age range. There are quite some families with children under 12, and there are some elderly, retired inhabitants. The only age group that seems to be lacking a bit is people in their twenties. Some ecovillage members are concerned that this age gap might become bigger once all small children have moved out of the ecovillage in 10 years, but others don’t doubt that there with be enough rotation to allow for new small families to move in. At Hallingelille the members get their income from many different occupations. Some have a job outside the ecovillage, like teaching or as a doctor in a local hospital. Others have a job outside the ecovillage with which they can work from home a lot, there are for example web shops, masseurs and a osteopathic practice, as well as a pottery and a glass workshop. And then some ecovillage members have by now found a job within the ecovillage due to some projects that were started here.

Community member Lars at work in his pottery workshop.

Two main projects are run in the ecovillage. One project is called Nye Rodder (New Roots) and this is a 30 week course for traumatized refugees. Through this project the community is able to give back to the region by rehabilitating unemployed refugees through so-called nature based therapy. The other project is part of a regional project called cafe Ingeborg, which provides daily activity for handicapped and dement people. At Hallingelille they welcome dementia patient every morning of the week to provide some meaningful activities for them. This gives the participants a break from their homes, while giving them some purpose and outdoor time. Over the two months the project has run, they experience huge benefits for everyone involved. Both projects provide job opportunities within the ecovillage, which is a big advantage for the inhabitants. I have written more about these projects in these blogposts: on New Roots and on Cafe Ingeborg.

Read more about Hallingelille on their website (in Danish):

Dementia participant Finn bundling up willow branches from the waste water treatment plant together with community member Nils.

A map at the entrance of Hallingelille ecovillage

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