Membership Overview

Rachel Carson EcoVillage builds on a tradition of established communities, both ecovillages and cohousing, which are based on the same principles. In the United States today, there are over 160 ecovillages and cohousing communities.

This outlines a three-stage path to membership in the Rachel Carson EcoVillage. Its purpose is to provide a guide to the process of introducing people to the ecovillage and forming the group that will develop it. This only applies to the process before occupancy. Once the ecovillage is under construction, this will be revised, as the process for joining will be different then, and there may be other categories of membership. The path to membership allows each household to move at their own pace. 

I. RCE Inquirer

Anyone is invited to learn about our community and engage in activities with members. The purpose of being an Inquirer is to become acquainted with the ecovillage. Inquirers have no responsibilities to the group except to let us know whether or not they are interested in moving to the next stage of membership. We anticipate that this stage might take from one to three months. 

By word of mouth, published articles, social media, and other outreach activities, we invite anyone who is interested to attend an introductory meeting, which we offer regularly. The meeting includes an introduction to the ecovillage and a chance to ask questions and meet other interested people. The path to membership is explained at the meeting. Inquirers’ contact information is added to our list so that we may alert them to upcoming meetings or events. Inquirers automatically become members of The Pittsburgh Cohousing Group. 

We ask Inquirers to indicate an interest in becoming an Explorer member at any point by sending an email to Besides the introductory meeting, Inquirers may attend other ecovillage activities that are announced to the our contact list or publicly. If we have not heard from an Inquirer for several months, we may inquire about their interest or drop them from the contact list. (Contact lists are maintained by the Administrative planning group.) 

II. RCE Explorer Membership

The purpose of the Explorer Membership is to give interested people a low-risk opportunity to see whether the ecovillage is the right “fit” and a chance to get to know their potential new neighbors. Explorer members are active members, who are involved in planning group and full group meetings. Explorer memberships enable prospective ecovillage members to get to know others in the community, understand our plans, our budgets, our requirements for contributions, and the risks attached to those contributions. 

Explorer members are responsible for participating in a planning group and taking an active part in full group meetings in order to help develop the ecovillage. Responsibilities may also include various tasks such as meeting with a new Inquirer, helping organize an event, helping draft a document, doing some research, or facilitating a meeting. Explorer members will be invited to take part in learning and establishing our sociocratic governance practices, including attending a workshop. They will also participate in ecovillage design workshops. 

Inquirers who want to become Explorer members will complete an Explorer membership form and pay a non- refundable fee of $150 per individual, which entitles them to four months of participation in business meetings, social events, and one-on-one meetings with members. At four months, the member may choose to extend Explorer membership at $75/quarter or move forward as a Founding member. If this presents a hardship for any individual, we also a $75 reduced cost membership level. Explorer fees are credited toward unit purchase price for those who move to the next stage. 

III. RCE Founder Membership

Founding members are individuals or households who have decided to purchase a dwelling in the ecovillage. An Explorer member who wants to advance to founder membership will have attended at least one full group meeting and participated in a planning group, will be aware of the risks and benefits involved, and will be conversant with the ecovillage values, policies, and practices. 

They will complete the requirements listed on the Founder Membership form, which follows. 

1. Founder Membership

Founding members make advance deposits up to the value of the down payment on their unit. In return they become members of Rachel Carson EcoVillage Inc., have decision-making responsibilities, and have priority in unit selection. The advance deposits from the founders fund the pre-construction costs such as survey, testing, design and engineering, public agency approvals, and legal and financing costs. We have prepared an estimated schedule of the timing of preconstruction costs to coordinate contributions with cash flow. All advance deposits are nonrefundable and are credited to the down payment of the household’s purchase price. The date of founder membership will determine priority in unit selection in the development.

If the effort to create the ecovillage does not succeed, no founding member should expect to receive any refund or other benefit for whatever payments they have made. However, if the project is abandoned, Rachel Carson EcoVillage Inc., will make a good faith effort to prorate refunds from any funds that remain unexpended after all expenses are paid. 

Further, if the ecovillage effort is successful but a household is not able to participate for any reason including personal choice, inability to qualify for a loan, or life changes, then that household may buy out of the project by finding an interested household that qualifies for founder membership and can take over for the prior member. Reimbursement for any payments by the prior household will be paid by Rachel Carson EcoVillage Inc. once all the units have been sold. 

The success of the vision and future solvency of Rachel Carson EcoVillage Inc. cannot be guaranteed, so households are advised not to risk any money they are not prepared to lose. 

Founder Membership Responsibilities

Membership in the ecovillage means taking an active part in the life of the community. After moving in, all members are expected to participate in the daily activities of the community, which are run on a volunteer basis. This includes participating in social activities, common meals, and community-related upkeep and maintenance. For example, for common meals in many communities, a rotating team of volunteers plans the menu, purchases supplies, prepares and serves the meal, and cleans up afterwards. Similarly, for community upkeep and maintenance, members assign tasks, plan the work schedule, and arrange for resources. Our experience is that people do best what they enjoy most. We suggest that members make clear their areas of interest and skills so their volunteer activities have the greatest benefit to the community and the greatest satisfaction for themselves. 

We have chosen the sociocratic method of governance for making community decisions. In this method, all members are given the opportunity to take part in determining what is best to do for the community. We do this respectfully even when there might be initial differences of opinion regarding the preferred decision. We practice compassionate communication to accomplish this. For more details regarding the sociocratic method of governance, please see the information in our shared documents. 

To obtain Founder Membership: 

  • All adult members of the household must complete RCE’s Sociocracy 101 class.
  • All adults are required to provide evidence that they have no record of child abuse.  This is accomplished by obtaining a PA Act 33 Clearance.
  • A meeting with the Legal and Financial Planning Group (LFPG) is required for each household prior to becoming a Founding Member to review the agreement and discuss any questions or concerns.  You may schedule it ahead of time, but we request that you have attended at least three Sociocracy 101 sessions before the interview.
  • All Founding Members are required to make a Reservation Deposit of $2,000 at the time of their Condominium Unit Reservation Agreement.  An additional Advance Deposit of $73,000 is required within 15 days of the Unit Reservation Agreement. Deposits are credited to the purchase of their unit.  
  • Once final pricing is determined, the unit selection will occur  in the order of the Unit Selection Priority List.  A Founding Member who is not prepared to sign a sales agreement may forfeit their place on the Priority List and add their name to the waiting list for future unit selection.
  • The Agreement of Sale for the specific unit will then be issued and a Sales Agreement Deposit will be made within 15 days.  
  • All Founding Members will be responsible for obtaining whatever financing they require for the purchase of their prospective unit upon completion of construction.  Pre-qualification prior to the start of construction is required for Founding Members who intend to get a mortgage.  We can provide a contact, but you are free to choose any bank for the pre-qualification. 
  • We request that all Founding Members provide a short biography and photograph so other members can learn about their interests and background, if they have not already done so as an Explorer member.  If new founding members have no objection, their bios and photos will be included in the “meet our members” section of our website.  

The Founder Membership policy may be revised by future decisions of the ecovillage group.