Welcome to the stunning eco-village of Findhorn in Scotland, where locals live in perfect harmony with nature and have made their homes in huge, recycled wooden whisky vats.
Findhorn now has some ten habitable barrels that help reduce the eco-village’s ecological footprint.
In the north of Scotland, Findhorn, one of the very first eco-villages in Europe, has more than 500 inhabitants. Here, nothing is lost, everything is transformed. In a region with more distilleries than anywhere else in the world, it was natural to think about tackling the waste they produce. The story began back in the 1960s...
In 1962, Peter and Eileen Caddy, their three children, and Dorothy Maclean settled in a caravan park near the small coastal village of Findhorn. To feed his family, Peter Caddy tried growing vegetables - but not without difficulty as the soil was dry and sandy.
Uncultivable? Perhaps, but that was without taking account of Dorothy Maclean and her gift. The miracle soon began to take shape - beautiful plants emerged from the dunes, including gigantic 20 kg cabbages, which attracted horticultural experts and some journalists who immortalized the prodigious harvest. The Findhorn legend was born.
A small community gradually developed around the Caddys and Dorothy. The community reached 300 members in the 1970s and 80s and the NGO Findhorn Foundation was established. In the mid-1980s, Findhorn evolved again with the launch of the eco-village project.
Roger Douda, an American activist, had the idea of giving a second life to used whisky barrels by transforming them into homes. "I went to collect some firewood from a cooperage 10 miles south of Findhorn and they took me aside to this warehouse where they had disassembled six large vats from the Haig and Haig distillery in Fife," he told CNN.
After sixty years the enormous wooden vats in which the whisky assemblages are created are scrapped. "As I recall they were supposed to go to a veneer plant. Various possibilities entered my mind about how we might use them." Roger Douda built the first prototype whisky barrel home in 1986.
These strange houses are insulated with recycled materials: straw, tires and stones, and some have planted roofs. Findhorn now has a hundred or so ecological dwellings, including ten whisky vats which help reduce the eco-village’s ecological footprint.
According to measurements made in 2006 by the Stockholm Environment Institute York, its footprint is probably half that of the United Kingdom and Scotland.
Among the many initiatives introduced to achieve this result, Findhorn’s inhabitants have installed wind turbines that power the village with electricity, a 250 kW biomass boiler and solar water heaters.
The wastewater is treated on site, thanks to an eco-friendly system called the "Living Machine". A natural process invented by the Canadian scientist John Todd, a series of basins contain different ecosystems (bacteria, algae, microorganisms, snails, fish, etc.) that purify the water.
And of course, in the spirit of the founders, the community is self-sufficient in food thanks to community gardens cultivated using a permaculture system - a form of agriculture inspired by natural ecology and tradition.
For all these reasons, Findhorn has become a benchmark for all the eco-villages that have developed around the world.
Main picture: Credit Findhorn