Eco-Gap Program Details

We are seeking a diverse group of young adults interested in creating a better future for our planet!

Tell us what YOU’D like to learn and let’s make it happen!

Eco-Gap Program Details


Sunday, September 8th – Friday, November 1st, 2019  (eight weeks)

Curriculum and Itinerary

Your days will be organized for you to start off on a positive note, doing something healthy for your body and mind as you check in with the group about how things are going and what’s new.  Most mornings will also involve some type of personal or group learning about life at the EcoVillage as you consider the many  facets of what it means to create a more sustainable way of living on Earth.

“It blew my expectations away. I didn’t know what to expect.  I absolutely would recommend this to other students!”   

Students cooking together in the Common House

CLICK HERE to see a sample weekly schedule

Afternoons will be filled with different types of activities that will be determined in part by your own interests.  You’ll have the chance to choose a topic of interest that you’d like to explore more deeply.  We’ll help you find a mentor within the EVI or Ithaca community and then you’ll develop a plan for how to approach your exploration.  The afternoons will be a valuable time for you to dive into this process.  Other afternoons may involve group work that will contribute to current projects happening at the EVI, such as harvesting vegetables on one of the farms, clearing land for new farm projects, building new structures, making gourd art, or maintaining trails.  Field trips around the Ithaca area to engage with people who are working on innovative projects will also be arranged.

Days will be filled with in-depth and lively conversations about personal and leadership development, living in community, social justice, and environmentalism with related readings, journaling and writing exercises.  They will also be filled with hands-on activities including field trips, community service projects, conducting research, cooking and eating together, exercising, and spending time in the outdoors.

Some evenings may be more structured than others.  Free time might involve social time or working on your personal projects.  You might spend time with your new friends engaged in activities like campfire building or watching an inspiring movie that are organized by the program staff or by you!

A view of Cornell University and Cayuga Lake.
EcoVillage Ithaca is on the left/west side of the lake.

Weekends will be spent with some field trips to Ithaca’s many incredible outdoor parks or working alongside EVI residents on projects.  However, the weekends will also have free time for you to relax and explore on your own or with the new friends you’ll make in the EcoVillage and with the program participants.

I would love to thank you for the warm welcome and hospitality.   My stay  included such useful information and skills, such as active listening, building doors, farming, recycling, re-use and composting!

Students and a Forester building a new fence to keep out the deer.

Program Eligibility

Eco-Gap is designed for young adults who have finished high school or a GED or equivalent diploma and who are wondering what the best next steps are for their future.  We are seeking a diverse group of individuals from varied cultures, gender identification, race, ethnicity, economic background and ability.  The ideal candidate will have a curious mind and an open heart and will be willing to engage with others in a respectful and courteous manner.  S/he will be passionate about the need for real and sustained change in the world that involves exploring methods of living that are inclusive of all peoples and beneficial for our planet.

We are seeking a diverse group of young adults to participate in our second annual Eco-Gap Program!
Scholarships available.

Program Cost and Scholarships:

Super Early bird deadline of February 28th = $5,500
Spring Early bird Deadline of May 30th = $6,250.00
After May 30th = $6,750.00

Scholarships (full and partial) will be available as funds permit with a focus on Tompkins County residents.  It is our intention that interested and qualified participants will not be turned away on the basis of financial need.

Housing Information

Eco-Gap participants will be housed with residents of EcoVillage Ithaca.  All participants will have their own room, or share a room or house with one or more participants.  Participants can indicate their preference for housing when they apply.

One of the many homes in the EcoVillage


One of the most important factors in working towards a more sustainable way of living on this earth is to recognize how integral our eating habits are to the health and well-being of our bodies, minds and spirits.  Our dietary choices affect our animal friends, our soils, our waters and our social networks.  Residents at EVI take healthy eating seriously.  To this end, meals will be mostly organic, locally grown, planned, cooked and eaten together … and delicious!

Dietary preferences and restrictions of all program participants will be taken into consideration and are requested on the application form.

Program Guides

The overarching curriculum of the program will be led by staff members who will be meeting with the program participants on a daily basis to lead discussions, plan activities, coordinate personal exploratory projects and monitor group dynamics.

However, many residents of the EcoVillage will also be actively involved with the program participants by serving as their host families, working alongside them on village projects, cooking and eating together, mentoring them on their exploratory projects and contributing their expertise.

Members of EcoVillage Ithaca in front of their new solar panels.

In addition, it is expected that program participants will have an active role in shaping their experience while at EVI. Though there will be a set program with expectations for participation, participants will be active in shaping group dynamics, planning group activities, designing their own skill-building projects and contributing to the overall learning environment.  The end result will be a participatory process that is indicative of the manner in which EcoVillage residents process and plan their activities and which will lead to a productive, inclusive and satisfying experience for all involved.

Safety and Security

The safety and well-being of program participants will be a number one priority.  Luckily EVI is one of the safest places on earth.  It is also a modern day community with electricity, running water, internet access and just a few minutes drive to  the City of Ithaca and nearby hospitals and clinics.  The city of Ithaca is also very safe and crime is minimal.  For the occasions in which participants will be leaving the ecovillage, either on their own or in groups, proper orientation will be given to ensure personal safety.   In addition, all program guides, staff and volunteers will be given required training regarding codes of conduct and safety protocols.  All program participants will be asked to disclose any personal health information or other circumstances to help the program guides facilitate their well being.

Staff and Members of the Advisory Circle

Liz Walker, Executive Director, Learn@EcoVillageIthaca

Liz Walker: Liz is the co-founder of EcoVillage Ithaca.   She has lived here since it was built in 1996 and organized the development of its three neighborhoods.  She is currently the Director of LEARN@EcoVillage, the educational branch of EVI. She’s written award-winning books about living sustainably, leads trainings and tours about various dimensions of life at EVI, has walked across the United States and is an all around wonder woman!

Jay Smith: Jay is a lifelong environmental activist who moved to the EcoVillage in 2015 from New York City.  He’s been involved in many inspiring urban farming and food justice movements in New York City and was even an urban beekeeper.  Since moving to Ithaca Jay has become a Master Composter, a member of the Equity and Accountability Committee of the Groudswell Center for Local Food and Farming, a member of Black Lives Matter Ithaca and a co-organizer in the formation of the West Village “Dig’Nity” Garden.  He’s currently researching and writing a book on the expected impacts of climate change and food production, especially as it may affect African-Americans.

Astrid Jirka: Astrid is a long time Ithaca resident who attended Cornell University where she received a B.A. in Anthropology with a focus on natural resource management.  She holds a Master’s Degree from the School for International Training and has subsequently worked in the fields of international education, sustainability activism, and eco-tourism.  Some of her unique experiences include managing a culinary herb farm, being an ecotour guide in the Virgin Islands, serving on the Natural Resources Commission for the City of Ithaca, and being arrested defending Seneca Lake.  She’s also been the Outreach Coordinator of International Programs and a Lecturer on Ecotourism at Ithaca College and the Director of the Language House at Cornell University.  She currently teaches yoga and runs a business called Vahana Yoga & Eco-Tours.  She loves working with people of all ages and backgrounds to find common ground on how we can live together more sustainably on the earth.

Jared Jones: Jared recently retired from nursing after working for more than 40 years in everything from health promotion to hospice.   Since moving to Ecovillage in 1996 he has been involved in orchestrating community building activities and celebrations including dances, singalongs and rituals/celebrations. He was also part of the construction team that created the Third Neighborhood at EcoVillage (TREE) and has strong working knowledge of green building techniques and renewable energy choices.  He has traveled widely in North and Central  America and in the Eastern Hemisphere and those travels have significantly informed his world view.  This collective experience gives him a broad background to consider as we explore the ideas of personal growth, health and community sustainability together.




Note: Eco-Gap is a program of LEARN@EcoVillage Ithaca.