Green Acres

Shared cars, organic food and compost toilets are all part of life in the new communities known as ecovillages

Robert Nickelsberg / Getty

John Bokaer-Smith, right, 37, helps out with the pepper harvest at EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI) in Ithaca, New York, August 28, 2007.

Gail Carson would like you to know something about the EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI): it is not a commune. "It's the first question people ask when they visit," says Carson, a pleasant, shy woman who runs a bed-and-breakfast at the upstate New York village. But you could be forgiven for not believing her.

At the moment, Carson, 66, is speaking to a circle of about 20 fellow ecovillagers who have gathered in the purple August twilight outside one of the community's common houses, where they've just polished off a group meal of broccoli pasta (regular, as well as wheat-free for the...

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