All across France, citizens are coming together to live, work together, and invent new places to live that meet the challenges of the ecological transition. They create what is called schoolchildren that are characterized by the choice of a collective life, more contained in the media, more united and open to the outside world. According to a census carried out by the Oasis Cooperative and Habitat Participatif France, 1,200 schoolchildren and participatory habitats would welcome around 20,000 people in France.
These inhabitants experiment with a low-carbon daily life, thus constituting resources of examples or illustrations of less impressive lifestyles. These places are sometimes called “oasis”, a term that allows us to generically group all forms of collective schooling: ecovillages, participatory habitats, ecological third places, collective farms, etc.
A study of more than 300 sites in the Oasis network shows that the vast majority are in rural areas, often in heritage sites to renovate, too large to accommodate a single family (farm, large cortijo, castle or mansion). Except for a few special cases, they house between 3 and 12 homes, each of which has a private space and shares gardens and common areas (laundry, children’s room, multipurpose room, guest rooms, etc.).
The inhabitants of these oases generally carry out some economic activities in the place to make a professional transition, either collectively (ecotourism, training, artist residences) or more personally (horticulture, crafts, groceries).
As part of its work on the place of sobriety in our lifestyles, the Ecological Transition Agency has partnered with the Oasis Cooperative, which manages the network of school groups, to provide feedback on the experience of schoolchildren and establish an observatory dedicated.
For this reason, the research departments and the actors in the world of research have evaluated certain dimensions of the life of these schoolchildren through indicators such as the Relational Capacity Indicator applied to schoolchildren (RCI-é), local integration or the carbon footprint.
The ambition is to measure the conditions under which these places of life can constitute a link to build a more sober and united society. Let’s see here the carbon footprint of these places -measured by questioning 600 people from 48 different “oasis”- whose results were released last November.
5.4 tons of CO₂ equivalent emitted
The study is based on the average carbon footprint of a Frenchman, of about 10 tons of equivalent CO emissions2 (CO2eq) per year. In detail, these greenhouse gas emissions are linked in 1.8 tons to food, in 2.8 to transport, in 1.9 to the consumption of goods and services, in 2.4 to housing and in 1. 1 to public services. These national figures, which are recalculated regularly, are commonly used as a benchmark for comparison with individual emissions reports.
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The analysis of the carbon footprint of the individuals living in school buildings was carried out by observing all the emissions generated by the practices and consumption habits of the inhabitants over the course of a year.
Thus, the inhabitant of an eco-place has a carbon footprint almost double, specifically 5.4 tons of CO2equivalent per year! Food thus represents only 1.2 tons of CO2eq, transport more than 2. The most spectacular improvements refer to the consumption of goods and services that emit less than 500 kgCO2eq and housing, whose impact is reduced to about 600 kgCO2ec.
Only the assessment related to public services, which in the methodology is calculated by distributing the impact of public services among all French people, does not change.
The practices in detail
Depending on the type of school – thematic community, youth, participatory housing, ecovillages, etc. – there are few differences in the distribution of the carbon footprint.
Regarding housing, the difference is explained both by more sober practices in terms of construction (ecological) and maintenance of buildings (a lot of renovation), as well as by the almost non-existent consumption of gas and fuel oil in schools, where energy It is based on the almost exclusive use of wood and electricity.
On the food side, where the difference is also significant, it is the emissions linked to meat consumption that seem much lower: 297 kg CO2eq per year for the inhabitants of an Oasis against 873 in the national average, that is to say approximately three times less than the French average. The consumption of dairy products in schoolchildren is equivalent to 2/3 of French consumption.
Regarding the consumption of goods and services, the inhabitants of schoolchildren emit almost 4 times less greenhouse gases than the average of the general population. This result is explained by a move away from the consumer society, a more systematic use of the reuse and sharing of goods, leisure options that generate 7 times less emissions than those of the general population, clothing purchases 2.5 times less and furniture and household appliances more than 5 times less.
Mobility and digital, surveillance points
However, there are points for improvement. Residents living in schools make more long-distance trips than the average French. Thus, they have a carbon footprint related to the use of the aircraft that is higher than the national average of 598 kgCO2eq against 430. The same observation for the train (93 against 20). This imprint is probably explained by the travel habits that these people, often highly educated, had before living in the oasis and for which they have not made major changes.
For short journeys, on the other hand, the inhabitants of schoolchildren resort more to the bicycle and use the shared car more easily than the rest of the French. Thus, the carbon footprint of the mobility of the inhabitants of schoolchildren is 25% lower than the French average, although in total they travel more kilometers than the average French.
Another point that can be improved, emissions related to the use of digital technology: the inhabitants of the Oasis continue to emit 107kgCO2eq, a record that remains high, although below the national average (of 180).
Beyond the carbon footprint, the quality of life and integration in the territory are also evaluated.
Very positive comments about the quality of life.
The quality of life of schoolchildren is measured in particular through the quality of the relationships that exist there. This aspect is documented through the RCI, an indicator of living well based on the capabilities approach that evaluates 5 dimensions: the relationship with oneself, relationships within the place, relationships outside the place, the relationship with society and the relationship with the environment. . Respondents are questioned about twenty criteria.
According to a study carried out in 10 Oasis and with 120 people, the inhabitants of the schoolchildren testify to a feeling of alienation stronger than before in life in the schoolchildren, of authentic ties with those around them, of a desire to contribute to the social changes. on a larger scale and the need to reconnect with the living. They also point out that living in a group allows further progress in a sobriety process.
Some striking indicators illustrate this relational quality: 85% of them feel they can trust most people in general, compared to 30% of the French population as a whole. 95% find meaning in their work, compared to just 50% of Brits. Finally, 76% of them have the feeling of “taking the time to do what they really want”, which only happens with 67% of the French population.
The main difficulty at first is undoubtedly the relationship with the outside, since the choice of this way of life can give rise to misunderstandings with family members or difficulties of integration in the territory of establishment.
Integration in the territory, more delicate
In relation to this last aspect, another crucial dimension to verify the proper functioning of schoolchildren is to ensure their correct integration in the territory where they are located: relations with the population and local authorities. A 2021 study by Sciences Po Lyon students in 8 schoolchildren from 7 different departments highlights that if the local authorities are generally benevolent, it is essential that the project is built upstream of the facility with them, and that the inhabitants of the schoolchildren They show a desire to integrate into local social organizations.
Indeed, relations are sometimes tense between the inhabitants of the schoolchildren and those of the host municipalities: despite the desire to open up to the outside, the life of the schoolchildren is sometimes, especially at first, too focused on herself and materially. and organizational issues specific to the collective, creating a de facto gap with the life of the municipality.
Added to this are the prejudices that may exist between these newcomers, who generally have no ties to the place where they settle and are perceived as urban dwellers “recently converted to a certain ecology”, and a rural world, judged by the former as too conservative. The size of the project would also play a role, so a small project would be more likely to be accepted than a large one.
The example of the Oasis network is interesting because it gives us an idea, on a small scale, of what a more sober daily life can be like, since the carbon footprint of the inhabitants of these schoolchildren is, in addition to public services, twice minor. than that of an average Frenchman. It also illustrates that beyond this value, this way of life also offers other benefits such as the quality of the ties that are formed there, well-being, inclusion and solidarity.
Pierre Galio, head of Ademe’s responsible consumer department, and Mathieu Labonne, president of the Oasis Cooperative, contributed to the writing of this article.