SOCIETY

An eco-friendly community crops up in Evia

Apostolos Sianos is 32 years old and wants ?to redesign human civilization, because the present model is in a deep crisis.? Sianos and three friends gave up their jobs and lives in Athens and moved to Mount Telethrio on the island of Evia, where they started a small, environmentally friendly community that lives off the land, one that can be replicated in other parts of the country as well.

The main aim of the endeavor, which was joined by another five people, is to teach people to live with as much autonomy as possible and to help the idea catch on.

The four founders of the community met online two years ago and pondered ways to cut themselves off from mainstream society. They decided to start on a piece of land on Evia owned by Sianos?s father, living in tents and growing their own basic produce. Their community began to take shape as they experimented with different ways to build permanent shelters using wood and clay, ending up with a cluster of yurt-like structures, similar to those used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.

?We chose this type of structure because it is the only one that does not require a building permit,? said Sianos. When they got stuck on how to proceed, the Internet provided them with answers to questions such as how to make your own soap and how to manage human waste without harming the environment.

Through its international online campaign, the group managed to collect 10,000 euros? worth of donations, with which it purchased a bigger plot of land in Agio, outside Edipsos in northern Evia. The plot was tidied up and fenced in, but the 400 trees planted in the early days of the Telethrio project were razed by hungry goats. Other problems that have cropped up have been noted in the group?s manual — a collection of guidelines for other initiates to the Telethrio project lifestyle.

The biggest obstacle the group faced was suspicion by the local community. It took a lot of hard work and hours of volunteering to help out in and around the nearby villages to eventually earn their trust.

?They saw us helping in the fields, putting out forest fires, putting to use anything they would give us. Trust was built up gradually,? said Sianos.

Some residents even donated their land to the project, whose members in turn helped introduce them to new ways of farming and to more grassroots activities.

When they held their first public information campaign in early summer, it was attended by dozens of people interested in how to start their own version of the Telethrio project. Couples with children, middle-aged single women and young men visited the community to see a different way of life and get ideas about ways of changing their own lives.

?I?ve done odd jobs, and there?s not much left to do in Athens. I am thinking of moving to my grandfather?s village outside Kalamata. We have a small field there and I?m thinking about how to use it,? one young man attending the event told Kathimerini, though he declined to provide his name.

Another man, who grew up in Germany and then moved to Greece, said, ?I?ve been thinking about living in a village for some time now because I want to raise my child in better conditions.?

A younger man was there to check out the eco-friendly aspect of the project, saying that he has become disgusted by the amount of waste we produce and the impact we have on the environment.

Other, mostly older visitors, talked about the economic crisis, the depression they feel, the sense of alienation and their fears for their health, while, as they talked, a group of kids ran around the vegetable patches.