Less chewing, more greenhouses at Tuggelite

June 7, 2009 at 13:56 Leave a comment

Saturday, May 23rd – Our host Jonas at Mjölnatorpet filled us in on another ecovillage just down the road, on the same bus line.  Since it’s the oldest ecovillage in the country (as old as me, founded in 1984), we decided we had to check it out.  Albert was kind enough to show us around the community and his house, where he’s lived since the village’s founding.

DSCF0807

One of the housing blocks in Tuggelite

As the first ecovilage in Sweden, Tuggelite attracted much attention at its founding 25 years ago.  Local governments from all over Sweden came to study the village and its organization.  We quickly noticed a major difference between Tuggelite’s layout and that of Mjölnatorpet (TOO-gah-LEE-tay and MYOL-na-tor-pet for the Swedishly challenged).  Tuggelite’s 5 housing buildings all face south, and each family’s house has its own greenhouse attached on the south side.  The interior walls of the greenhouse are made with a thick layer of concrete, used as a “thermal mass” – the heat of the sun becomes stored in the warm concrete, which cools more slowly than the air – the wall releases that heat into the night, reducing the need for heating at night.

Tuggelite's layout

Tuggelite's layout

Albert, our tour guide, was one of the driving forces behind the village’s founding.  In 1984, they were at the cutting edge of sustainability in Sweden – all the houses are equipped with triple-glazed windows, a technique that is now the standard in Sweden (we’re still working on getting double-glazed windows into old houses in America).  Many more of Tuggelite’s ideas have been taken up into the mainstream of Swedish policy.  They were the first place in the country to use wood pellets for heating – a  waste product of logging, the pellets are a highly efficient source of energy.  The entire village is hooked into a district heating system controlled from the common house.  The pellets are stored in a type of silo and their flow into the heater is regulated by computer.  Today this setup is found throughout Sweden, including at Mjölnatorpet.

Touring with Albert

Touring with Albert

Near the common house, we also found the garbage.  Tuggelite’s residents sort their garbage and recycling; the garbage goes to the municipal bio-gasifier, where the gas released from its decomposition is captured and used to run Karlstad’s bus fleet.  This was another innovation that Albert and the other founders worked to develop.

Common house with greenhouse

Common house with greenhouse and original 1984 solar panels

Wood Pellet Storage

Wood Pellet Storage

Inside the heating room

Inside the heating room

Tuggelite means something like “chew less” in Swedish.  The story goes that long ago, the adjacent land was owned by a wealthy, titled family, while the area around Tuggelite was left for the peasants.  The rich folk had ample food to sustain themselves and always had something to chew, while those at Tuggelite had less to chew.

Exercise on the lawn

Exercise on the lawn

Today, the name has taken on new meaning.  Residents at Tuggelite ecovillage are generally well-off, well-educated people that have a degree of freedom in where they choose to live.  For many, the choice to move in to Tuggelite was a conscious choice to chew up less of the Earth’s resources – rather than being a negative thing, chewing less can now bring its own rewards.  A strong sense of community, lower energy bills, living in a well-designed, efficient house are all commonly cited benefits of living here.

Each family has its own compost bin

Each family has its own compost bin

Grapes growing in Albert's greenhouse

Grapes growing in Albert's greenhouse

Tuggelite was our first glimpse at a fully established ecovillage.  While Hurdal is abuzz with new energy and countless projects, and Mjölnatorpet is settling down into its adolescence, Tuggelite’s fruit trees are grounded in 25 years’ worth of soil.  The average age of the residents is somewhere over 50 – the same phenomenon of extremely low turnover is occuring here – only 2 or 3 of the units have come up for sale in the past few years.  The energy of the place is very welcoming, and also subdued.  It’s immediately obvious that the residents have achieved what they wanted to and are enjoying the rewards of the place they’ve built together.

Rhubarb for our pie!

Rhubarb for our pie!

Before we ended our visit, we had to sample the local specialty crop.  Rhubarb plants the size of small trees covered the lawns, and Albert’s wife Margretha was kind enough to let us take some to make that pie you read about last time.

Radu's first rhubarb

Radu's first rhubarb

Hammock in the greenhouse - perfect after a long day of interviews

Hammock in the greenhouse - perfect after a long day of interviews

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