Living For The Long Haul: How Carmelita Gardens Leans Into Sustainable Living in Belize

by Carolee Chanona

A place dedicated to healthy living, a deep relationship with nature, and collective community growth. While not the norm (yet) these places do exist around the world and they’re called eco-villages. Formed with intention, ecovillages around the world have taken root and thrived—including within our very own Belize. Whether you’re reading because you’re just curious about ecovillages or are looking for a new place to call your eco-home in the Caribbean, here’s what to know about the sustainable, off-grid, and “independent together” community of Carmelita Gardens.  

Defining What An “Eco-Village” Is 

Carmelita Gardens vegetables

Sustainable living at Carmelita Gardens, Cayo.

Unlike a regular community, an ecovillage embraces a low-impact and high-quality living style. Ecovillages form around an intentional community and support the local production of food, the use of renewable energy, sustainable architecture, and support a natural way of life. In 1991, sustainability experts Robert and Diane Gilman wrote “Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities,” a study on ecovillages undertaken on behalf of Gaia Trust that helped lead to the formation, four years later, of the first ecovillage conference that took place in Findhorn, Scotland. That event led to the founding of the Global Ecovillage Network and to countless ecovillages all around the world.

Ecovillages seek to live in harmony with the environment and develop their land with an eye on protecting vital natural systems. Meanwhile, they’re also fostering good relations with neighbors, both of the human and animal variety. They farm and garden, pool their buying power to save money, and may even share other community resources like cars and tools. Does every house on the block really need to have its own lawn mower? Most villagers in Carmelita Gardens don’t even own cars, and they get by just the same. 

How Carmelita Gardens Fits The Criteria 

Founded in 2010 on 98 acres of rich farmland, Carmelita Gardens considers itself a “sustainable riverfront village.” Here, its roots are firmly planted in the verdant Belize River Valley of Cayo, Belize. It’s here that residents have all the tools needed to live off the land: ample sunshine, rainwater, fertile soil, and a flowing river. The result? Solar power, self-sufficient organic gardening, and recycled rainwater catchment can afford residents to go off the grid entirely. Not to mention, Carmelita Gardens is not a walled-off, exclusive expat enclave—the community, found just outside Santa Familia Village—actively fosters integration with the neighboring villages and towns. Minutes away lies the towns of San Ignacio and the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout

Instead, it’s a place where the living is uncomplicated, back-to-basics, and super affordable; cottages retail fully furnished and fully outfitted, while lots start at US$39,000 for a 5,000 square foot Green Garden Lot. And if you’re just leaning into what “living for the long haul” could look like, start with a rental first. Rates start at US$105 for the night, or US$910 for the month. With English as the first language, there’s no learning curve waiting—and everyone inside Carmelita Gardens’ ecovillage speaks community, fluently. 

All images via Carmelita Gardens.

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