How Sustainable is Twin Oaks?

Twin Oaks is an established income sharing community in central Virginia of 93 adults and 15 children.  Now located on a 450 acre farm, the commune operates 6 businesses, grows most of its own food–organically–builds it’s own buildings, teaches it’s own kids, and repairs it’s own appliances and vehicles.

Welcome to the Community

Welcome to the Community

Here is some of the mainstream and alternative media coverage of us:

Central to the community’s operation is the idea of sharing resources.  Twin Oaks has developed robust systems for sharing cars, bikes, clothes and businesses.  These systems are in sharp contrast to the casual sharing practiced in the mainstream where brittle agreements generally lead to failure.

Turns out to be quite difficult to take good pictures of Commie Clothes

Turns out to be quite difficult to take good pictures of Commie Clothes

One of the many advantages of sharing resources is dramatically reducing our negative ecological effect and carbon footprint.  The numbers below demonstrate we are already near the 80% reduction in carbon emissions that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recommending by the year 2050.

[Note: It is unclear if the below numbers include our income generating businesses or not.  My guess is they do, and thus we are even more sustainable.  But i will check and indicate here what is true.]

Gasoline: The average Virginia resident uses about 530 gallons per year. Twin Oaks consumed about 15,267 gallons of gas in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of population of 96, that would put our consumption at 159 gallons per person. That is 70% less gasoline consumed.

gas pump noozle

Electricity: The average Virginia resident uses 13,860 kWh of Electricity per year. Twin Oaks consumed 268,065 kWh in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our consumption at 2,792 kWh per person. That is 80% less electricity consumed.

These numbers pre-date our installation of a 10 kW solar panel array

These numbers pre-date our installation of a 10 kW solar panel array

Natural Gas: The average household in Virginia uses 767 therms of natural gas. Twin Oaks consumed 16,221 therms of natural gas in 2007. With an adult population on average of 87 adults, that would put our consumption at 186 therms per person. That is 76% less natural gas consumed.

Solid Waste: The average American produces 1,460 pounds of trash a year. Twin Oaks produced 18,780.00 pounds of solid waste in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our production at 196 pounds per person. That is 87% less solid waste produced.

The cultural aspects of community life are as important as the economic ones.  We develop our own holidays.  Almost all our operations are run by volunteers.  We don’t use money internally and there is effectively no crime.

The cast and director of Freegantown

The cast and director of Freegantown

In many ways , the community is an island, culturally and economically separate from it’s immediate surroundings.  This cooperative model, however, is one of the very few solutions that can actually avoid the climate catastrophe the US is hurtling toward at breakneck speeds.

The original data for comparing Twin Oaks with US average consumption of electricity, natural gas, gasoline and solid waste were researched by Alexis Ziegler of Living Energy Farm.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

16 responses to “How Sustainable is Twin Oaks?”

  1. moonraven222 says :

    So, the question is: How do we get more people to live like Oakers? Or, how do we create more Twin Oaks?

  2. keenan says :

    Paxus, your numbers are wrong. Twin Oaks’ energy consumption and waste production include all of the energy and waste from our income-generating businesses; the numbers you are comparing them to are the average American resident, not residential and corporate consumption combined, so Twin Oaks’ average consumption numbers are actually much better than you list them here.

  3. Michael Hobson says :

    With both your natural gas and electricity numbers, you are comparing individual usage at Twin Oaks to household usage in the rest of the state. An average Virginia household is three people, so Twin Oaks seems fairly close to the mainstream on these. No argument on the gasoline and solid waste, Twin Oaks is clearly superior on both fronts.

  4. Jon x-Viz says :

    The numbers for at least natural gas consumption seem off since you’re comparing usage per person at Twin Oaks to usage per Virginia household. Census data shows average household size to hover right around 2.6 since 2008 which would put average use per person (767/2.6) at 295 therms. Using the average TO population of 96 from your other calculations, that puts TO use at 196 therms/person, which still puts you at an admirable 43% reduction.

  5. artfulescapist says :

    The numbers for at least natural gas consumption seem off since you’re comparing usage per person at Twin Oaks to usage per Virginia household. Census data shows average household size to hover right around 2.6 since 2008 which would put average use per person (767/2.6) at 295 therms. Using the average TO population of 96 from your other calculations, that puts TO use at 196 therms/person, which still puts you at an admirable 43% reduction.

  6. richard w. lisko says :

    twin oaks is pretty awesome and it’s always a pleasue to point the young farmworkers passing through here in your direction. lots of love, from jbird at tantre farm in chelsea, mi.

  7. ShiraDest says :

    Interesting: I really like the fact that you develop your own community holidays.

    Your internal work-hours exchange sounds a bit like an informal TimeBank, with a community small enough to prevent Free-Riders (having fully shared ideals helps, too, I imagine).

    So, is it reasonable to ask: do the long-term residents become effectively family?
    Best,
    Shira

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