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Couple builds off-grid ecovillage with friends & leftovers 🐎

Emma and Edo were once a hotel stage show dance team, until they quit to live out their dream of rescuing animals (Emma) and farming (Edo) on the island of Tenerife. They bought cheap land and began to transform the rocky, dusty soil into a lush homestead.

In the beginning, it was just Emma, Edo, and some family toiling on the land to create basic accommodation. This was at a time of bare basics, with no electricity, running water or toilets. Soon they were joined by volunteers, and they got creative building homes out of old vans, hillside caves, mud and clay, and scrap materials (including a lot of old pallet wood).

After a couple of years, they had expanded beyond an animal sanctuary into a full-fledged community with 40 to 50 volunteers living on-site who all worked to live as lightly on the land as possible. The Tenerife Horse Rescue community is completely off-grid, using solar power, but also clever inventions like a horse poo water heater and a pedal-powered washing machine.

Since the average rainfall on Tenerife is between 11 to 30 millimeters for most of the year, all water is reused. Kitchen and shower water (greywater) is filtered with natural materials like pebbles and papyrus. Toilet water (blackwater) goes through a more rigorous process of biofilters. First it goes into tanks where it is oxygenated to separate liquids and solids, then it flows into a biofilter basin which works as a hydroponic pond (gravel, water, plants but no soil). Then it goes through a biofilter basins which use gravel and papyrus to trap particles and compounds after which it is finally clean enough to water the garden.

To feed what has now become a small village of people and animals, the villagers have graduated from dumpster diving to “freeganism”: they have an established relationship with a local supermarket to collect all damaged, ugly or out-of-date food. Every day, three volunteers pickup new van loads of food, it is then sorted for humans or animals.

To be sure that nothing gets wasted, and to give back to the community, they’ve gone one step further by registering as a local food bank so they can distribute food to local low income families and other animal sanctuaries.