Sustainable living on an island bought by its inhabitants

The island of Eigg in Scotland was purchased by its residents and is an example of sustainable living. Waste is not tolerated there and sustainability is essential.

This island is part of Scotland's Inner Hebrides, known as the Lesser Isles. It is 22 kilometers from the mainland and there are ferries several times a week to deliver supplies and transportation, depending on weather conditions. Eigg measures eight by five kilometres.

Although it is the second largest island, it is by far the most populated with around 110 residents, which has helped it create a community that takes collective responsibility for the island's future.

Nora Barnes, Eigg Ranger at Wildlife Trust Scotland, explains: “Sustainability has always been a part of island life and local farms. You're a little more conscious of what you're wearing. You can't just go to a high street store and buy something. Literally everything we want and need we have to transport by boat".

A unique island

What makes the island unique is that it is owned by its neighbors, explains Maggie Fyffe, secretary of the Isle of Eigg and one of those involved in the sale process.

He lived there for 43 years and explains how the change of ownership came about: “The island was owned by a mysterious German artist who only visited for four days in two years, so we thought we could make the place better. We requested funding and a mysterious donor contributed one million euros and we were able to raise the amount of 1.750.000".
They finally bought it in 1997.

Maggie Fyffe explains the initiatives that have been launched on the island, such as “that all residents sign an agreement or create a system that combines three energy sources: wind, water and solar”. Each house has 5 kW, the company has 10 kW, the green or red light indicates that there is enough power or that the battery is charging, so neighbors should pay attention to the consumption. The wonderful thing is that they do it.

Juan Carlos highlighted the importance of communities being able to generate their own electricity, which, he said, is "a sign of Spain's upcoming fight against market liberalization". A project to extend the electrical system to homes and businesses on the Isle of Eigg is also underway, but has not yet been completed. The energy issue is key to sustainable living.

Pioneer in energy and sustainable living

In 2008, Eigg became the world's first offline community; the Energy It comes from wind, water and the sun. These three systems complement each other, so almost all weather conditions contribute to the production of electricity.

Backup generators still exist to ensure supply, but most come from renewable sources.
"The amount of renewable energy we use varies depending on the climate, but we reach 90%"explains Fyffe.

The benefits of new renewable energy systems are many. Previously, the island used diesel generators, which caused logistical problems, Barnes warned. “We had to transport the diesel, put it in tanks, take it home and replace the generator. It was a huge job".

The use of renewable energy has significantly improved the sustainable and daily lives of people and the environment. It is also a step towards self-sufficiency and sustainable living. With the global energy crisis causing prices to rise around the world, Fyffe explains how this model has helped protect the island from rising costs of living.

"(Energy) prices here used to be higher than on the mainland, but now they are probably cheaper.
We review prices from time to time, but we haven't done so in recent years because it has been very difficult for everyone to afford that expense. Eigg continues to work to be more sustainable. We are involved in another feasibility study to see how we can achieve net zero carbon emissions
"Fyffe said.

"We hope to build a house and renovate an old doctor's office to rent out, and we will also test air source heat pumps to see how effective they are. Then people will be able to move there"he explained."To do this we will need additional supplies, perhaps three large turbines, although we are still in the early stages".

sustainable living

Tourism as an activity

Tourism has also become an important sector in the development of the region, taking advantage of the spectacular landscapes and turning the island into an attractive location for cinema, television and advertising. From Harry Potter to James Bond, film lovers look to Scotland as a tourist destination where they can recognize scenes from their favorite films.

Its most famous locations are the Singing Sands beach in the north of the island, where the movement of quartz sand creates a distinctive sound, and the impressive rock ridge of An Sgurr, formed about 58 million years ago by a volcanic eruption in the east of the island.

In between are rugged plains, swamps, dense forests, miles of coastline and white sand beaches similar to those in the Caribbean, and even a small patch of temperate rainforest. The island was largely unaffected by the industry that transformed the landscape of much of England.

“We don't have very intensive agriculture here,” Barnes explained. “The landscape is conducive to wildlife. There is no commercial fishing or large-scale agriculture and the beaches and sea have clean, clear waters.”

Energy for heating

The majority of the island's population uses wood stoves for heat.

Eigg is implementing a sustainable forest management project to ensure timber supplies, felling trees to provide firewood and timber for islanders to export, while also planting new trees and expanding the forest.

"The nursery was created to grow trees in places where old trees had been cut down" explains Barnes.
Some will be used as firewood and others will be saved for wildlife. Meanwhile, native trees grow."

Housing demand

sustainable living

Eigg also appears to have avoided the problem of properties being left empty in the winter when residents move into second homes.

Indeed, the main challenge appears to be providing permanent housing to residents who are currently in caravans or temporary accommodation and seeking sustainable living.

"We are trying to provide housing for the people who already live here. We have a lot of people staying temporarily, so we are trying to increase the number of apartments for rent”Fyffe said. "A lot of people are waiting for rental offers to appear."

As infrastructure improves, economic growth and housing demand is a positive sign given the risk of population decline many islands face.

With information of: