written by Arne Bollinger on Jan. 7, 2019, 6:14 p.m.

Youth Exchange Review

ecobasa was hosting a youth exchange at ZEGG ecovillage in Germany from 25. August to 3. September 2018. This youth exchange with the title ""Youth on Earth: Yes we (c)are" was the seventh organized by the international project Yes to Sustainability. Thirty young people between the ages of 18 and 30 from France, Slovenia, Spain and Germany participated.

The aim of the international Yes to Sustainability project is to promote alternative and ecological lifestyles among young people by giving them the opportunity to experience life in European eco-villages. These meetings are funded by the European Union's Erasmus+ programme. They allow young people to go out at any price to network on a European scale.

This exchange at ZEGG provided an opportunity for in-depth reflection on the issue of social sustainability. How can I be connected to my needs and feelings? How can I connect with my environment? And finally, how can I make my life more coherent by listening to what I feel? To answer these questions, the days proposed several activities:

  • a collective awakening, with songs, dances, sharing the indoor climate or short warm-up massages
  • community work time (in the garden, in landscaping and permaculture, in the kitchen or in the maintenance of the land)
  • afternoons dedicated to the issue of social sustainability: deep ecology exercises*, the discovery of the ZEGG Forum, the expression of feelings, non-violent communication or exercises in the forest
  • moments of sharing to anchor reflections, learning and questioning

In the morning, the young people gathered to start the day together: dancing, singing, with a "weather report" or with short warm-up massages. The mornings were spent with the Community. The group helped with permaculture, gardening, landscaping, cooking and grounds maintenance.

In the afternoons, themes and issues of social sustainability were discussed: examples were deep ecology exercises, the ZEGG Forum, work with feelings, non-violent communication or experiences with nature. One day was organized by the participants themselves. The afternoons were spent with contact improvisation, music sessions, sauna or simply in the village pub.  In the end, there were many other ideas for networking across Europe. As a summary of this meeting, many felt inspired to live a more sustainable life and praised the fullness that such a community life can offer.

The Ecovillage of ZEGG (Zentrum für experimentelle Gesellschaftsgestaltung or Experimental Social Design Centre) is located 80 km southwest of Berlin. Founded in 1991 on a 15-hectare site, it is home to an intentional community of about 110 people. Since its creation, the community has been exploring innovative approaches related to deep ecology, and developing original tools for self-expression and confidence building.

ZEGG's eco-village develops and experiments with socially and ecologically sustainable lifestyles. For its inhabitants, this means personal development work, the establishment of a supportive and cooperative living environment, as well as participation in collective decisions. It also means that the site is equipped with phyto-purification, a CO2-neutral heating system, a large organic garden that allows the community and the reception kitchen to be 50% self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables all year round, buildings built in straw clay, a meditation room, a children's house, artists' workshops and seminar rooms.