Sunny Hills of Istria is a project that aims for sustainable revitalization of rural area of Slovene Istra.
Association Sunny Hill organises workshops, retreats, conferences and events immersed in pristine nature, away form the hustle and bustle of the cities but still, only half hour away from tourist centers at Slovene and Croatian Adriatic coast.
Cooperative Sunny Hills of Istria offers the venue. 200 years old traditional building where the events take place was fully renovated in 2016 and exhibits sustainable solutions such as compost toilets, reedbeds for waste water treatment, clay plasters and more.
Cooperative and association are entangled in a vibrant community that hosts long and short term volunteers who help with the household, maintenance, garden and whatever is on the to do list at a time. Cooperative members, volunteers and long term guests live and work together in luxurious simplicity following four guidelines: agreement of people, harmony of space, resonance of life, and joy of co-existence.
Luxurious simplicity is a concept of simple lifestile that doesn’t restrict us from the basic comfort of the modern times. We share tools and cars, we try to buy only necessary stuff, repair, upcycle and recycle whenever possible, buy bulk, produce own food and cook together. We are trying to be conscious how our actions effect the environment, other humans and other living beings.
The origins of Sunny Hill go back to 2012. At that time, the founders lived 25 km away near the village of Pomjan at the community initiative called Naravice. That venue was less appropriate for further growth so they looked for a better location. The exploration brought them to the villages of Močunigi and Hrvoji. In 2013 they organised a series of events with a group of people interested in creating an ecovillage. In 2013, the core team of seven people made the first vision and plan and in May 2014 they came to the current location of the community.
In the second half of 2014, they started renovating the former rectory that they bought from the Slovenian Catholic Church. Hundreds of international volunteers supported the pioneering steps of the community in that year and in 2015. They learned how to organise on an ecovillage tour they made in 2013, when they visited Schloss Tempelhof, Schloss Glarisegg and Damanhur.
The lessons learned led them to decised to have two legal entities: a cooperative (initially called Močunigi Cooperative) to own the real estate and an association (initially Sustainability Park Istra) to do activities and host events. Both organisations were founded at the beginning of 2014 by six founding members.
Močunigi is the name of a hamlet where ecovillage was supposed to start, but due to legal complexities the Cooperative was unable to pursue the hamlet and instead remained in the hamlet where it started, called Hrvoji.
In 2014, the Cooperative cleaned and started renovating a former rectory next to a small church. The intention was to lease it, but the church preferred selling it so the Cooperative bought the house and renovated it over the next two years.
2016 – 2019
The community hosted the first events in the unfinished house, such as the annual meeting of Umanotera Foundation in 2015, GEN National Network gathering in 2016 and 2019, a Slovenian Social Entrepreneurs’ gathering, two Slovenian Ecovillage days etc.
In 2016, tensions forced the founding members to split their pathways. As two of the founding members left the community, the cooperative remained with the real estate, while the members who left inherited the Park Istra Institute and the entire Park Istra brand. They continued their work in a newly established charity volunteer center at the former barracks in the village Kastelec.
The new association, called Sunny Hills Association was established in January 2017. The cooperative changed the name and statues in March 2018, going from Močunigi Cooperative to Sunny Hills of Istria Cooperative to bring both of the names closer.
The remaining four founding members inherited memberships in the abovementioned international organisations. They continued with what Sustainability Park Istra Institute had been doing between 2014 and 2016. They added more ecological farming, buying and renting additional real estate, further connections with permaculture and ecovillage movements as well as with ECOLISE network. In 2018, another of the founding members left while the three remaining cooperative members kept the community running.
years of existence
self-sufficiency with vegetables
self-sufficiency with fruits
events each year
Impacts of Sunny Hill Association
At Sunny Hill, many sustainable practices can be experienced:
- organic farming for self-sufficiency
- smart water use
- dry compost toilets
- preservation of the architectural heritage of the dry-stone building
- eco-construction with natural materials
- educational programmes
- shared use of resources and economy
- economic heating system
- producing and using biochar
- involvement in the local community
- networking on municipal, regional, national and EU level
All these practices come together in a living community model based on values of luxurious simplicity, community.
Household water consumption at Sunny Hill, is 20-25% (35-30l) of the national average (150l per person per day). This is mostly due to dry compost toilets and economical water usage. Approximately 80% of the water used in the household is rainwater, collected from roofs and stored in an underground reservoir. Wastewater from kitchens and bathrooms is cleansed in reed-beds and collected again in a reservoir to be used for watering the garden. So the household water is used twice. To avoid harmful chemicals polluting the soil, only organic products are allowed for doing the dishes, laundry and personal hygiene.
Compost toilets collect all the faecal matter in buckets and urine in canisters. The faecal matter undergoes a process of hot composting and is used as fertiliser after 1.5 to 2 years of composting. The urine is used directly as fertiliser with certain vegetables. We use some of it to activate biochar and spill some around the edges of the garden to repel animals.
Gasification boiler is used for heating with locally sourced wood. With appropriately dry wood the boiler reaches +90% efficiency and has very low emissions. Hot water is stored in a 1650l storage tank that has two spirals. One spiral brings additional heat from the secondary heating system with solar collectors. The other spiral heats the water for household use: the kitchen, showers etc.
In the summer kitchen and shower, the water is heated up by passing through a coiled black hose.
Eco-construction entails renovating old dry-stone built houses, avoiding cement, instead of using wood, clay, lime, natural paints etc.
Living closely together as a compact community calls for good organisation and communication.
Everyone present in the community premisses, including guests, has lunch and dinner together every day. Work is shared among the members and volunteers on a weekly basis. Depending on who is present, there can be morning yoga, hikes, concerts, festivals, movie screenings, musical evenings, games and other lay activities.
Rich exchanges create a healthy social environment. This does require learning new social skills to be able to integrate into the community.
Living together means having less individual space and more common space. Voluntary simplicity at the individual level makes room for collective abundance. At Sunny Hill, living expenses are much lower than the Slovenian average.
A lot of the economy is internalised through the community’s high self-sufficiency with food, water and wood for heating. Members of the community can have a good life even with a low wage.
An outside source of income comes through hosting events and renting rooms to tourists in the summer.
Impacts in other dimensions
Between 2014 and 2016, the Sunny Hill community was involved in a civil initiative called Revival of Istria, leading to a deep reform in the Local Action Group (LAG), LAS Istre.