Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature–the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. In nature nothing exists alone.
Silent Spring, September, 1962

Our Story

Our community is inspired by the legacy of Rachel Carson (1907-1964) whose early fascination with nature led her to pursue an extraordinary career as a scientist, writer and educator. Childhood walks with her mother on their Western Pennsylvania farm instilled in Rachel Carson a ‘sense of wonder’ about the natural world that in turn inspired a life-long devotion to environmental stewardship. A science degree from Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University) started Rachel Carson on a journey to become a leading scientist and spokesperson for environmental concerns.

Rachel Carson taught us to see ourselves as part of nature, not a controller or even just a protector, but as inter- dependent with it: as reliant on the world we live in as it is on our good stewardship. We are founding the Rachel Carson EcoVillage on the premise that people have a valuable and purposeful role within the environment and that our presence can enhance the vibrancy and resilience of complex living systems. 

Chatham University

We are committed to creating and cultivating connections: relationships among ecovillage neighbors, with the larger Chatham University community, and with the human and natural communities around us. The Rachel Carson Ecovillage is “of the land”, rooted to its place. It takes its identity from the place around it and in turn seeks to strengthen the identity of that place.

Chatham dedicated the property to its new Falk School of Sustainability and Environment, which was founded in 2010. One of the earliest schools of its kind in the country, the Falk School educates leaders with the knowledge to meet our growing sustainability challenges with programs in conservation, agro-ecology, sustainable food production, biodiversity, renewable energy systems, and change management.

The Land

Our story begins with the land. The site of the ecovillage is the area of Elizabeth Meadows on the Eden Hall campus of Chatham University, 20 miles north of downtown Pittsburgh. For many thousands of years, the site was a forest that grew on what was once the fertile shore of the great Inland Sea, a fitting resonance with Rachel Carson’s own deep interest in the seashore.

She wrote of such geological evolution, “And so in my mind’s eye these coastal forms merge and blend in a shifting, kaleidoscopic pattern in which there is no finality, no ultimate and fixed reality.”

In that kaleidoscope, the forest has given way to the patchwork of farm fields and woodlands we find today.  The site was part of land purchased by one of H.J. Heinz Company’s first executives, Sebastian Mueller, in the 1880s, first as a horse farm for his family and later as a site for summer outings for factory workers. When Mueller died without heirs, he left Eden Hall Farm as a retreat for working women. The Eden Hall Foundation was established in 1983, and the land was gifted to Chatham in 2008.

Join Us

With the shared vision of a world in which we care for each other and the world around us, we will have opportunities to participate in Chatham University’s research and teaching and create new collaborative initiatives.

The Rachel Carson EcoVillage, the first ecovillage in the region, is a multi-generational community drawn together to create a rewarding and sustainable way of life. We are planning 35 units for households of different ages and sizes, along with a common house and other shared spaces. With well-defined targets for energy and carbon reduction, the houses will exceed most green construction standards today. The site is being designed on permaculture principles. Through the design of the ecovillage, we are aiming to have a positive ecological influence, even if it is very small and very local. We see this as an opportunity to take a step in a constructive direction, recognizing that the ecovillage is a very small intervention in the life of the natural world.