Casita Verde – The Green Heart of Ibiza
Many new arrivals on Ibiza are curious to find out about the green heart symbols that they see on so many cars. They are of course referring to the emblems of Ibiza’s Greenheart ecological movement, which is centred at the Casita Verde complex overlooking the beautiful Benimussa valley. The story of how Casita Verde came to be, and how it is evolving, is best told in the words of Chris Dews - the man who is the heart and soul of this amazing and important organization.
Most permaculturists make an elaborate and detailed plan before they begin their actual project, but that wasn’t how the Casita Verde phenomena happened. It has been a gradual evolution of both ideas and acquired wisdom, spread over 24 years of experiences. This ongoing process has been greatly influenced by the hundreds of volunteers who have passed through Casita Verde... each one lending a hand and leaving their mark. My initial project in 2001 was called the ‘Ibiza Ecolandia Centre’, but it wasn’t a big success for reasons both economic and political. However, that initial experience planted firmly in my heart a vision of what I wanted to create. I returned to my little rented farm house (Casita Verde) where we continued to develop the concept in a more organic and affordable manner. Thanks to the generosity of the landowners, plus a substantial amount of financial help from my good friends Emanuel Kuntzelman and Laura Rose of the Madrid-based Foundation for the Future, we were able to use the entire five and a half hectare farm as our base.
Over the years myself and our never-ending army of volunteers have been able to transform a virtually abandoned piece of countryside into a natural green paradise. Bit by bit we have created unique and practical buildings using recycled and ecological materials. The original sandy soil has been made more fertile by gradually adding carbon material from our eco toilets and other sources. This has allowed us to plant and maintain beautiful ornamental trees and a wide variety of drought resistant plants. We’ve recently installed an ecological vegetable garden that uses recycled water from our living areas to produce extra food. In addition, Casita Verde has more than 1,000 aloe vera plants, 20 lemon trees, 120 olive trees, a few dozen grape vines, 30 almond trees, 30 carob trees and 20 fig trees.
Ibiza Ecologic is the name of our official NGO that was founded in 1996. It now has more than 14,000 members and continues to grow. Each week Casita Verde offers two special events that are open to the public. Our famous Sunday open day goes from 2:00 pm to sunset featuring a vegetarian lunch, live music and the opportunity to meet and hang out with lovely people. It has been celebrated every week since April 2002, and all of our Sunday visitors are invited to participate in a free tour of the entire site. It’s a three hour crash course in permaculture with stops at all of the incredible structures and innovations that we have created over the years. Our other weekly public event is on Thursday evenings from 7:00 pm until midnight, when we host a networking and fundraising gathering that is combined with a dinner party and dancing. People come along to meet others who are interested in similar subjects, and to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. It’s also another opportunity to taste our deliciously healthy food and drinks which are made primarily with local products harvested on site and at other Ibiza farms.
Since its inception, Casita Verde has been active in promoting the ecology of Ibiza beyond the confines of our centre. For many years we have been organizing the cleaning of beaches and other natural areas on Wednesday evenings. We also share the responsibility of running a wonderful local products market each Saturday in the small village of Forada. These efforts began to expand in 2013 when my friends at the Foundation for the Future decided to launch ‘Greenheart International’. Its goal is to create a worldwide movement that works under one umbrella to connect people to our precious planet Earth. Four years later our Greenheart family on Ibiza decided to bring this concept to the local population. We call it the ‘Ibiza Fènix project’ and its mission is to create a new model of social leadership that uses intelligent ecological thinking to build a showcase for responsible and sustainable tourism.
Working closely with so many volunteers over the past twenty years has taught me that most people function better on a level playing field, rather than being part of a pyramidal system. That’s the operational model that we have adapted for Ibiza Fènix, and our symbol is the carob tree. We are bringing together ‘Game Changers’, NGOs and members of the local government to form the many ‘branches’ of this ‘tree’ in a non-hierarchical structure. Our intention is to encourage the island’s residents to actively participate in the positive evolution of this wonderful place where we live. By working together we can co-create a world where people can live and thrive in harmony with each other and with nature.
If the Fènix model proves to be successful here on Ibiza we can export it other tourist destinations that struggle with unsustainable life support systems. It is obvious to me that the only way to succeed with such a metamorphosis is by ‘tuning into our collective energy’. This means working together to transform all activities which cause the degradation of natural resources, the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of our natural environment. Changing these ecological problems into positive and regenerative solutions is the very essence of permaculture. The time for change has arrived, and this is a call to action! The magic of synergy is all around us, so the question is... are YOU ready to tune into it?
Chris Dews is the founder and director of the Casita Verde ecology centre, and the main coordinator for the Greenheart movement on Ibiza.