Vigo may not be your first choice when you travel to Spain. As part of the autonomous region of Galicia in the north-west part of the country, it seems just like every other harbour city – with a port, old towers and a lot of fish restaurants. But, not so far from the center, in the nearby wood, you will find the sign of Ecolectivo.
We arrived in an extremely rainy day, very normal for Vigo, called the Spanish London. Our host Gustavo Garcia Martinez has been part of Ecolectivo from the very beginning. He explains that their main focus is permaculture, or the development of sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural ecosystems.
But for them, permaculture is also a philosophy of life that they have been harnessing for the past 5 years.
“The way we are working here is by learning. For example, the kitchen roof we made, at first was very unstable, but then we made another one, and another one, and then finally we made something with a good structure”, said proudly our host while we were going for a tour around Ecolectivo.
Martinez says that they experiment a lot, and that can be easily seen from all the projects on their land. One of them is the small construction which they call it the “Green House”.
Inside of it you will can find recycled materials that they found it in the city. For someone it is a garbage – for them it is useful material for their projects.
They also have a garden with medical plants that they use it for producing essential oils and a filtrating water system so that they don’t need to water them all the time. They even have a bio digester for producing bio gas from organic materials that end as a liquid compost. This is still in a beginning phase but they already succeeded to produce a small amount of it. “For one hour of work in the kitchen you need 200 litters of gas, and there is not enough space to keep the gas”, says Martinez.
When they first entered this property, they had only the house and a separated space. Everything else they made themselves. Its architect, the young Virginia Vasquez Arranz, explains that in the process they were using only recycled palettes, clay and straw.
Another experiment they have is the oven, where they bake bread and vegan pizzas. “We need to learn how to reuse things, and not just creating and putting the garbage under the carpet”, said Martinez.
Our tour continued till the shower cabin – made of wood, clay, palettes, and calcium carbonate for the floor. At the moment they use gas for heating the water, but they want to put a solar collector.
They have another area dedicated to community parties and a classroom where they make permaculture workshopsIn the property there is also a sauna and a natural pool “In the summer you may see some ducks and frogs that have returned after several years,” says Martinez.
“We want to give an example”
When you are inside Ecolectivo you will still hear the sirens of ambulances hurrying through the city. But you will also hear a lot of birds and you can rest your eyes watching the forest behind them. In Galicia they have something they call “monte communal” or community forest that does not belong to the council but to the community.
But, all the area is urban and some day it can be transformed for commercial purposes. So they rent the property instead of owning it. That gives them even more freedom to experiment and see what is functioning and what doesn’t. They know this is temporal, but they also know that they want to give an example and build knowledge for some future community.
“At the beginning the neighbours were skeptical. They were saying “oh, they just like to seat here, do nothing and make music”. “We make music, but you can also see that we work too ”, says Martinez.
“We work the land and for them this is nice, because they all did this when they were young, and today no one is doing it”, he adds. The moment we left Ecolectivo it was like a portal that brings you back into “reality”. Inside everything is calm and without any tension, and outside of it, you come back to the fast life. That made us question ourselves – how come a place like this can be so close to us, and yet so different?
Should there be more Ecolectivos in each city?