BRIELLE SCHAEFFER

Peninsula Clarion via Associated Press

KENAI, Alaska (AP) -- Kate Veh believes Kenai Peninsula residents can learn something about being a sustainable community from Ionia, the therapeutic eco-village located in Kasilof.

Veh, a founder of local environmental group Kenai Resilience, helped organize a tour of the community April 24.

"They are the most sustainable community on the Peninsula right now," she said. "By showing us what they do we can take these techniques back to our lives and try to be more sustainable."

Nearly 100 people showed up to Ionia on April 24 for Kenai Resilience's "Sustainable Community Day" to take a tour of the community, learn about the communal lifestyle, share an organic meal and enjoy some homegrown music and folk dancing. This is perhaps the biggest group of visitors ever to the cooperative.

"I'm kind of curious what they've got going on," said Krista Nyberg of Soldotna about her reason for attending the event. "The sustainability and getting things set up really piqued my interest."

Ionia is based on 160 acres off of North Cohoe Loop in Kasilof. The founding group members banded together to address mental health issues through daily group meetings and an organic, macrobiotic vegan diet. About 50 people and nine families live in the community currently. They sew their own clothes, grow their own grains and use alternative energy to support their back-to-basics lifestyle.

"Some folks knew it existed and were curious about it. Some people never knew it existed," said Michelle Martin, another founder of Kenai Resilience.

"It's getting back to the village mentality instead of the self-gratification, I'm the only one that matters mentality," said Leah Gillman of Soldotna, about Ionia's communal lifestyle.

Barry Creighton, one of Ionia's original founders and a member of the Alaska Mental Health Board, explained that the group has received several grants from the federal and state governments that have funded their alternative energy sources.

The community creates energy with solar panels, efficient GARN wood-fired boilers, and soapstone masonry heaters in the main building called "the long house."

"We want to try and harvest wind energy as much as we can figure out how to do it," Creighton said.

Ionia grows its own organically raised grain and has a mill to process it.

"There's a wave hitting this country and this planet of taking better care of the earth," said Eliza Eller, a founding mother of Ionia. "This is just one little froth of this wave and we're riding it and we think people on the Kenai Peninsula are interested in riding that wave."

The goals both Ionia and Kenai Resilience have in common are being sustainable and working together as neighbors.

"I think we've become quite isolated in a generation," Veh said. "Large corporations can sell us so much but can't sell us a sense of community."

Martin said that creating a self-reliant community on the Peninsula is also imperative in the event of a natural disaster or emergency.

"The idea that we here in the central Peninsula are at the end of a long and very fragile supply chain. It might be good for us to learn how to live here without importing stuff," she said. "If we're not going to rely on this supply chain we have to rely on each other."

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Information from: Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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