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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July, 2005, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
Eco-village 'is model for us all'
By Lisa Mitchell
BBC News in Stirling

The Stirling community has been "very receptive" to the eco-village

Thousands of protesters heading for the G8 summit at Gleneagles are camping beside the River Forth in Stirling.

It's a campsite with a difference.

With the co-operation of the local authorities, they are living according to alternative social and ecological principles.

They claim they are not idealistic dreamers but that their model has practical implications for the rest of us.

It is difficult to get an answer to the simplest question at eco village.

Each decision is by committee and the going is slow.

I can't help being a capitalist because I live in a capitalist system
Katharine Foster
The first principle of what they call Hori-zone is that there is no hierarchy and no leader. The people govern themselves by collective agreement.

It works by "co-operation not competition," said 29-year-old Katharine Foster.

The charity worker says that in her normal life in Fort William, she does not use supermarkets, recycles, avoids high street shops and cycles almost everywhere.

"I can't help being a capitalist because I live in a capitalist system," she said.

"But I detest it because of the power imbalance it creates.

"Hori-zone is about a new way of living."

Environmentally sensitive

The campsite was set up by a loose group of anti-G8 campaigners, including Dissent Network.

Over the past two years, several attempts to find farmland close to Gleneagles for the eco village failed.

Kevin Smith
We're trying to leave as few footprints as possible
Kevin Smith, Dissent

Stirling Council came to the rescue with a loop of land in a river meander, over-looked by the Wallace Monument and Ochil hills.

Kevin Smith, of Dissent, said the Stirling community has been "very receptive".

The climate change researcher from London said the main focus of the camp was to be environmentally sensitive.

"We're trying to leave as few footprints as possible."

People have organised themselves in "barrios", each of which looks after its own affairs, from cooking to recycling.

They feed back concerns, comments and decisions to a council.

The idea is that they can all theoretically have a say on how the camp is running.

They take turns to empty compost toilets and recycling banks. Power for lighting comes from wind turbines and solar panels. A fixed bicycle runs a music system.

The council provided six glass banks, two can banks, two paper banks and 50 wheelie bins for rubbish and has been impressed by the organisers' approach to the site.

We're very supportive of what they're doing and it's something we'd like to encourage
Brian Roxburgh, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency

"So far, we're very encouraged by their responsible attitudes to recycling. They want to leave the site as they found it," said a spokeswoman.

There is also an area to treat "grey water".

This is from washing up or preparing vegetables. It cannot be used for drinking but is not highly contaminated.

A natural filter has been built near a tree line, where plants filter the water and the trees benefit from it.

Brian Roxburgh, of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, has been working with the group on the design and use of the grey water ditch.

He said the eco village might have something to teach the rest of us about water conservation.

"They're making a good point," he said.

"We're very supportive of what they're doing and it's something we'd like to encourage.

The people govern themselves by collective agreement
"We would be interested in using grey water in homes for flushing the toilet.

"At the moment, houses use highly treated, good quality drinking water. By using grey water, it would conserve our reserves."

'Positive example'

The camp has also made a point of using bio-diesel, or treated vegetable oil, in its mini-buses and buys its food locally.

One supplier is Green City, a workers' co-operative in Glasgow.

The organic wholesale food company sells lentils and oats from Scotland and other dried goods, like coffee and tea, from fair trade producers in developing countries.

Worker-owner Scott Erwine said the protesters on the eco village are setting a "positive" example, but that it is not isolated.

"There's a sea-change in people's way of life. They are looking for something sustainable in the long term, but also good for their health in the short term.

"And it can be good for business. Last year our turnover was 3.5m and sales are up 30% this year.

The slave trade was to the 18th century what oil is to us now
Katharine Foster

"For example, we sell biscuits made by a small bakery in Tobermoray in Mull. In return, we supply them with flour.

"It's an alternative to the capitalist model that works."

The protesters know they have a mountain to climb before their lifestyle is embraced by the mainstream.

But they are hopeful.

"The slave trade was to the 18th century what oil is to us now," said Katharine Foster.

"Everything they had depended on slaves. But over the course of decades, everyone from landed gentry to housewives realised the injustice and rose up against it.

"I believe it's only a matter of time before the same thing happens with the damage we are doing to the planet."

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