This Village in a Box Wants to Save the Planet

The Israeli Experiment is a complete, shippable construction set to build a fully sustainable with housing, energy, food, and water.

Sep 2, 2019

Most of us are trying to be more sustainable. We eat organics and cut down on meat. We recycle. We cut back on one-use plastics. We turn off the water when we are brushing our teeth and soaping up in the shower. No matter how much we conserve, some things are just not in our control, and we still have a carbon footprint. But this could be radically altered for the better.

Israeli entrepreneurs Jonathan Haran and Victor Hajaj founded The Sustainable Group in 2017 to build sustainable neighborhoods with new green technology that will provide the technology and the infrastructure of all the residents' needs off the grid with no state infrastructure necessary.

Now, working with a team of top scientists, engineers, and software experts, The Sustainable Group has developed the "Village in a Box". This is a complete shippable construction set – like putting together IKEA products – to build your own carbon-negative community complete with housing, energy, food, and water according to NoCamels.

The first Village in a Box is part of a joint venture with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (a multi-national program that is part of Ben Gurion University) to build a pilot community. Construction will begin in 2020 on a kibbutz near Mizpe Ramon in Israel's Negev desert. The 200- home village called Qayma and will include communal areas, industry, and agriculture.

“That’s a great place to start,” Haran told NoCamels “since Mizpe Ramon is the most remote city in Israel. If it works here, in the middle of the desert, that’s a great proof that it can work anywhere in the world.”

Haran told ISRAEL21c that the 120-square-meter houses are made from monolithic domes that are constructed using an inflatable balloon that is sprayed with a thin layer of cement. “When it dries, you have an arched shape that’s earthquake proof. You then deflate the balloon and can use it again many times,” he said.

The village will be powered by renewable energy, water from Israel's national carrier will be recycled, and the greywater from washing dishes and showers will be used to flush toilets. The community will have its own waste-water treatment system to use for agriculture, biogas for home use, and to make fertilizer.

Every adult resident will be asked to give eight hours a month to agriculture, maintenance or other community tasks and are free to pursue their own careers, according to Haran “Eight hours is not a lot of time, but it allows everyone to be involved and resilient, and there will be no need to outsource maintenance,” said Haran.

Every household will receive a weekly basket of organic fruits and vegetables that will be grown onsite in a closed biodome greenhouse. Every home in Qayma will have its own garden.

What the community will not have are cars. “Only bicycles and scooters will be permitted. Electric vehicles can be parked outside the neighborhood for shared use,” says Haran.

“The heart is the community. Because of the eight-hour model there will be a lot of personal interaction intended to create a strong community that can handle its own future, grow its own food and be a tourist attraction," said Haran. "We will have a big community center and will organize activities using co-living principles such as shared spaces and gardens.”

Village in a box was one of 20 finalists out of 6,000 nominations in the Chivas Venture Competition, a $1 million contest founded in 2014 for social entrepreneurs who come up with big ideas to solve social and environmental issues.

“Mayor Roni Marom [of Mizpe Ramon] agreed to help us build the first community of its kind in the world to be fully self-sufficient. It will also incorporate tourism and job creation. People from all over will want to come and see it,” Haran said. Registration is open for people who want to be residents.

The two founders see this community as a way to effect change on the societal and communal level. All the resources we need for living are part of the food-water-energy-nexus,” Haran told NoCamels. “That’s all we need.” Sustainability can only come from an approach that sees food, water, and energy as a whole.

Giving communities their own independent water supply, renewable energy, ways to grow their own food, and by recycling wastewater, according to Haran translates to a 35 percent decrease in the cost of living. This is a big plus in Israel because it has a high cost of living.

Haran said that the group is "already working with some Bedouin and Arab communities in Israel," and the project is gaining interest in other Middle Eastern countries.

If the pilot project is successful, it could usher in an era of sustainable community living, as well as regional cooperation. With the world getting hotter, the Middle East has an urgent need to find solutions to climate change. The village in a Box could be one of them.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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