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Eco-living & ecological footprint

A Heterotopia Tour should be designed to motivate the participants to experience an eco-friendly lifestyle, one that has a much lower ecological impact; a way of living that makes us better understand how much resources we use for different daily tasks and what are the tools and methods we can use to actually reduce our consumption of energy, water and waste.

All the Tour long, the participants will experience how such a lifestyle brings us closer to each other, creates community and brings us closer to nature.

The following paragraphs detail the main principles on which the Heterotopia Tour relies regarding eco-living and a few ideas and examples on how to reduce the group's footprint in practical terms.

Before the Tour, get the participants accustomed with the concept of ecological foot print and encourage them to find out what their personal impact on our planet is.

For example, in former Tours, we invited the participants to fill out a google form that at first introduces the concept of ecological foot print through a short video ( from the footprint network and then to calculate their personal ecological footprint following this link: Furthermore they were asked to find out how much domestic water and electricity they consume per month when they're home.

This preparation (that you can design in a different way) aims at giving to the participants the opportunity to actually think about their personal consumption of resources in the place they live and with the lifestyle they have at that moment.

The Tour will be the opportunity to better understand the concept by demonstrating what reducing one's ecological footprint means in practice.

Both the participants and the facilitators will experience an eco-friendly lifestyle thanks to the eco-camp you will set up together on the ground of the hosting organisation.

The simplicity of the living conditions (cf. Chapter 5. > Subchapter Logistics and practical arrangements") will most probably contrast with the participants usual comfort and give them food for thought. You might have already described the living conditions you will offer and explained the choices you made to the participants during the preparation phase (cf. Chapter 4. How to select and prepare the participants? ) but we recommend to talk about it again at the very beginning of the journey, when arriving at the venue.

In addition to explaining how you designed the eco-camp and how each equipment of the camp works, we advice you to take time to collectively set up a common board of values in the first days of the Tour. It will strongly help the participants to acknowledge the rules and adopt some practices regarding accommodation, food, transport, energy consumption, etc. that meet both their needs and the local constraints and context.

From our experience, we suggest you the following:

Reduce water consumption

  • A few data to better understand

At first, it is worth to remember that most of our water consumption is not visible to our eyes. Only 3% of our water footprint is our direct domestic consumption of water, like drinking, cooking and cleaning. Whereas 97% is hidden (virtual water) in what we eat, what cloth we wear, what we buy, what services we use and the amount of water that is needed to treat our waste.

During the Heterotopia tour, you won't be able to impact on all those factors but you can reduce directly on your personal water consumption by using dry toilets, following an efficient water saving method to clean your dishes and buying locally produced and seasonal food.

  • Wonderful dry toilets!

We advocate for the use of dry toilets during the Heterotopia Tours, even if it is not the most glamourous topic.

Given that feces might be taboo or sound disgusting for some people, we believe it is worth explaining in detail to the participants why you have chosen dry toilets instead of the flushing toilets they are most probably used to. The Tour will be an opportunity to demystify the topic and to address it from an ecological perspective, while taking into consideration the participants' perceptions.

Remember that throughout the EU 25 percent of domestic water is used for flushing the toilet. By using dry toilets in your eco-camp, you will directly reduce your personal water consumption and decrease your virtual water consumption (because in dry toilets no waste is produced that requires water in its treatment process).

On top of that, highlight the fact that your excrements will go through a humanure composting process (that will vary according to the type of dry toilet you will use), which means that what was a waste product in normal toilets becomes a nourishing resource.

Wether they like it or not, we believe using dry toilets will be an meaningful experience for the participants. Nevertheless, prepare yourselves for explaining and explaining again the purpose of it, especially when the time will come to empty and clean them…

  • In sawdust and cleaning station we trust

Another area where you can save water during the Tour is the cleaning station for dishes. We suggest you to use a water saving dish cleaning station with three to four big containers. The first one will be filled with untreated saw dust from a nearby carpentry or saw mill, which has been proven to take off very well food residues, oil and fats from plates and pots. The second container will contain soapy water and the last container(s) clean water.

Of course, natural dish washing soap is recommended so that no water needs to be wasted. Instead it can be used to water trees and the garden.

  • A few other tips to save water

Adopting a vegetarian diet and buying locally produced and seasonal food are good ways to reduce the virtual water you will consume. For tips and advice, refer to the Chapter 5.1: ”Logistics and practical arrangements“.

Another way of reducing directly your personal water consumption could be having cold water showers only! But maybe you should discuss it with the group: they might find a less extreme solution to take shorter showers…

Greywater usage to grow bananas and sugar cane.

Adopt an energy saving lifestyle

The Heterotopia Tour is an opportunity for the participants to experience a simpler way of living, less digital and of much lower energy consumption. This temperance can be achieved in many ways:

  • For lights: Organize most of the session during the day, when you can benefit from direct sunlight. Design activities for evening and night which don't require more than the light of a campfire or the light provided by the participants' headlamps.
  • During the sessions: Ask facilitators not to use computers and projectors for their workshops, but instead black or white boards.
  • For hygiene: Set up showers that run with solar heated or cold water.
  • For cooking: select efficient ways of cooking food using renewable resources as much as possible.

Generally speaking, living together with people and in a community automatically helps reduce the energy consumption because much more people take advantage of each energy unit. For example, much less energy is used per person when cooking for a big group than for a few persons. Likewise, you will need much less electricity if everybody gather under a collective spot at night than if each person is enjoying one's evening in a single room.

You can try out new tools to complete the daily tasks with the participants, bringing them to an interesting learning process regarding low-tech and energy efficiency. For example, we experienced lately with a group cooking using rocket stoves that ran on wood (which was collected daily by the participants in the nearby forest) and with solar ovens. Rocket stoves appeared energy efficient and worked well with wood residuals and tree branches. It demonstrated that no tree needs to be cut down to run such equipment, but it demonstrated also that, when these cooking techniques are used, more time is needed to prepare the meals.

Whatever you decide to do, take time to inform the participants about it and to open a discussion on the matter. At a time when most people (and especially the youngest) are used to have an almost permanent access to their (smart)phone, to a computer with an internet connection, to an outlet to charge any of their electronic devices, and to a wide range of electronic appliances for cleaning or cooking, limiting your consumption of electricity might become a challenge. But it is definitively worth it if we want to enjoy the Earth longer!

Produce no waste

Because we believe waste management is a huge concern of our times, we decided to follow as far as possible the concept of Zero Waste in the Heterotopia Tour (more info @, that means we adopt practices that emulate sustainable natural cycles, where wasted materials become resources for others to use.

In practice, you can try to reduce the creation of waste at first by buying food in bulk, preferably without plastic packaging. This is reached by buying fruits and vegetables directly from farmers or local distributors in re-useable boxes. For drinking water, try to use mainly tap water, nearby fountains or buy it in big refillable containers. Avoiding 100% of food and drinks packaging is very difficult nowadays, but we believe you should give your best and choose paper and glass packaging over plastic.

It is also possible to refuse some products because of their negative impact. In that case, we recommend to share this information with the participants so that they can understand your choices and learn from it to tend towards a more sustainable lifestyle back home too.

Composting will significantly help you to reduce your daily waste production. It will apply to feces, thanks to the use of dry toilets (also called composting toilets) and to kitchen waste, which we believe should all be composted in a Heterotopia Tour, including paper and cardboard without plastic films. In case the venue has none yet, building a composting system will be a great workshop to include in the program.

After refusing, reducing and composting, try to reuse or up-cycle waste as much as possible, either during the Tour or during later workshops led by the organizing team or some of your local partners. At last, recycle meticulously your waste, so that in the end no waste from a Tour ends up in a landfill.

Promote ecological and natural hygiene products

One other way of making a Heterotopia Tour eco-friendly is the use of natural hygiene and cleaning products. It will also be a direct way for the participants to experience alternative eco-friendly products for their daily needs, that they could bring back home.

This practice has various benefits:

  1. natural hygiene and cleaning products are better for people's health
  2. they have no negative impact on the environment
  3. plastic waste is being reduced as glass recipients can be used or plastic ones reused
  4. water from washing the dishes and from the showers can be re-used for watering shrubs and trees in the venue.

To put it into practice, you should at first ask the participants not to bring their own hygiene products for the Tour, such as shampoo, soap, tooth paste and deodorant. Of course not because you don't want them to use any, but because you will provide them natural alternatives as soon as the Tour begins.

Even if you have already provided to the participants the hygiene products they need for their daily care since the first day, it is actually recommended to make again some of these products together with the participants during the Tour. That way, they will get to learn how easy it is to do. The more dynamic and playful the workshop will be, the more it will motivate them to make some more back home.

Likewise, other products such as detergents to wash dishes, to disinfect the kitchen or clean the toilets should be eco-friendly.

If you don't have in your team a person that has experience in doing all these eco-friendly products yet, you can look for someone in your area who can make them for you or teach you how to. Don't be afraid to try! You might be surprised to discover how easy it is to do, and there are already various books available with instructions to guide you. You can also download HERE the recipes we have used in our previous Tours.

Photos of an ecological and natural hygiene workshop at Heterotopia Portugal 2018

Measure your ecological foot print during the Tour

Learning what Ecological Footprint means from a theoretical point of view is nice but we believe it makes much more sense if you measure yours for a given period and analyze it. The Heterotopia Tour is the opportunity to do so. In the Tour, we want the participants not just to experience a lifestyle that reduces the impact on our planet, but we would like them also to measure and realizing their consumption of resources during the journey.

To reach this objective, we recommend you first organize a session on the topic of the ecological footprint at the beginning of the Tour. It can start with a reminder and a discussion on the concept. Ask the participants how they felt when they discovered their results on the footprint calculator before the Tour. Did they have difficulties to answer? Where do their results rank in comparison to national averages of the EU, their countries, the US?

Then you should define together how the consumption of resources and the production of waste during the Tour can be measured on a daily basis by the participants. Help them define smart indicators and ways to collect the data they need, depending on the venue and the available equipment. For example, water consumption can be measured by using a water meter or by calculating the volume of water consumed by the group in a cistern (or other type of water storage). Electricity can be measured with a electricity meter. For cooking, the volume of gas or the weight of fire wood can be recorded, while another group of participants can weight the waste (plastic, paper, glass, not-recyclable trash) produced by the community.

(Note: As the organization team, you should anticipate the needs to enable the participants to collect data. If you don't manage to have the proper tools and equipment, the participants won't be able to measure anything).

You can also make an estimation of the sustainability of your diet during the Tour by asking the participants to collect data on where the food comes from and if it is organic or not. It would also help for the participants to understand why some food products are excluded from the dining table during the Tour.

Finally, at the end of the journey or after the participants return, the collected data should be compared to existing data for the EU. For example during the Heterotopia Tour in Portugal in 2018, 3 times less water was consumed and 4 times less plastic waste produced than the average European person during the same amount of time (see table below).

We believe that following this process (introducing the concept of ecological footprint before the Tour + devote a workshop to the topic at the beginning of the Tour + collecting data all along the journey + analyzing them at the end of the program) allows the participants to really understand what are the issues at stake and motivates them to take action back home. From a pedagogical point of view, it is also a great opportunity to introduce them to the scientific approach and stimulate their critical thinking.

If you manage this part of the Tour with care, it will provide you data like the following table and chart that you can use for improving your next Tour(s) and for awareness raising or training workshops you can run in the future.

Example 1: Results of the ecological footprint exercise held during the Heterotopia Tour organised in South Portugal in 2018

 Table with the results of and ecological foot print exercise in the Heterotopia Tour Portugal 2018

Example 2: Results of analyzing where the food came from during the Heterotopia Tour organized in Portugal in 2018.

Origin of food for the Heterotopia Tour in Portugal 2018

Provide to the participants practical ideas for reducing their footprint back home

It might be difficult for the participants to actually bring their new experience of eco-friendly living back home with them and apply the techniques they learnt to change some things in their usual lifestyle (especially if they live in the city).

To help them we find it useful to have a short session on what practical changes everyone can do in their life to reduce their personal ecological foot print.

In previous Tours, for example, we did it through a brainstorming exercise in small groups on various topics such as water, energy, waste, food and traveling. Pencils and paper were given to the groups so they could write down what they came up with and then to present them to the whole group.

This will help the participants to connect the Tour experience with their reality. It might be decisive for the project to have an impact. For this reason, we suggest you to be as practical and realistic as possible during the cession.

Act to compensate the ecological impact of travelling

To complete the circle, try your best to offset the Tour's negative ecological impacts because there will be some, no matter how good you were to reduce it, and it wouldn't be honest of you to neglect it.

Traveling to the venue will be the largest part of your ecological impact, because most of the participants will most probably travel by plane (as it is more convenient and often also cheaper than by other means). To reduce this impact is actually difficult, as travel costs are restricted by most grants and so is travel time more often than not. As a solution we suggest you compensate for this negative impact by for example planting trees in the venue that over time will absorb and fix the amount of carbon dioxide that was emitted or by supporting other carbon off-setting projects.

In practice, try to calculate the distance traveled by all the participants for the Tour and the quantity of carbon dioxide that was emitted. Then define what could be done to compensate and take action.

For example, the participants from Greece, Italy, France and Portugal traveled to the Heterotopia Tour we organized in Portugal in June 2018 in total 115 041 km (roundtrip). By this 19.1 tones of carbon dioxide were emitted. We calculated that we would need to plant 191 trees by using a conservative conversion of 1 tonne CO2 per 10 trees. Some have been planted on the venue during the Tour and the rest during a public tree planting event in November 2018.

guide/implementation/conditions.txt · Last modified: 2019/04/25 15:35 by Dora