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The Hustle

Name: Chris Kenrick (St. Pete Eco-Village)

Posted By Graham Colton

As general manager of the St. Pete Eco-Village, Chris Kenrick finds joy in living out the Village's mission: To "provide immersive, sustainable and educational experiences for humans and nature to thrive." Just as it sounds, the Eco-Village is a home within nature: It's a practice in sustainable living, green business development, urban agriculture, and sustainable health and wellness. The Village is a place to make (and live with) friends, while growing (and growing food) together, in a living arrangement that benefits everyone. The Village is perhaps a not-so-subtle rebuke of mainstream food culture, wherein big box stores sell mass-produced, processed foods "grown" on corporate farms. The Village values authenticity over fakeness, community over isolation and quality over quantity. Arguably one of the few truly sustainable living arrangements, the Eco-Village is ahead of its time, finding nourishment in the land and succor in our community.

Years in Tampa Bay

Six. I have been living in St. Petersburg since July 2012 when I moved here after living for two years in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Before Mexico, I spent most of my life growing up in Wisconsin, but my dad has been in St. Pete since around 1990.

Hustle (job)

Dreaming up a city that is affordable to thrive in, creating an environment to share and collaborate your gifts and talents, along with helping to push our community to a more resilient and sustainable future. This would be big picture, macro level. At the micro level, I would say my hustle is being involved in the implementation of ideas to demonstrate the change and education we want to see in our community. Examples include tiny houses, off-the-grid living, urban agriculture, composting toilets, grey water and black water systems, solar, rain water collection, innovative housing, creative educational programs, hands on learning and education, etc.

What do you do?  

I describe myself as a community developer and I believe affordable housing is one of our biggest challenges facing our city and our nation. I am [supporting] and I want to continue to support the tiny house movement, to bring small, energy efficient and truly affordable permanent tiny houses to our area. I support and fully believe in our city’s mission “to be creative and innovative.” I also believe and work toward creating more co-housing community options or co-ops, and I support the movement to land trusts, which has a share of ownership. The challenge is learning from others that have experience to speed up the learning curve, and also so we don’t make the same mistakes that have already been made.

Why do you do it?

A lot of my inspiration comes from travel, I love to travel and see how others live. Once you leave the United States and go abroad, you learn so much about yourself and our great country. We have lots of opportunity and lots of freedom, but what we are missing is hard to describe. The United States is a melting pot and a blend of every culture, which almost creates no culture or no identifiable culture. What I believe we are missing is social collectiveness, or community integration or multi-generational collaboration.

I do what I do for the challenge of change. Most of us know that change is hard, “but change is the only thing that is constant.” We need scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs to come up with new things to improve our lives. No one starts from scratch, every day we keep progressing and we keep growing and we keep building.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

My world changed with the opportunity I had to study abroad at the HAN Business School in Arnhem, Netherlands. I lived in an international dorm with people from over 75 countries. What an experience, what a culture shock and what a wonderful opportunity to meet people from all over the world, learn about different cultures, foods, customs and lifestyles. That is what led me to work in Australia and teach English for a short time in Thailand, and eventually teach English in Mexico.

As I write this, I am seven days from leaving for Europe where we will travel for a month visiting different countries, cities, towns, eco villages and communities. The goal is to learn as much as we can and then later dissect it into what we can use, share or build on.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

A common misconception about what we do is that people believe we are mostly made up of a community garden, while we have one of the largest community farms and gardens; our plans are much bigger than that. Each building in itself is or will be an educational demonstration piece, other plans include a tiny house village [and an] eco-assisted living facility.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

The most challenging part of our hustle is prioritizing, time management, bureaucracy, building a construction team, construction team management, etc.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

“Progress not perfection,” “Be the change,” “Everything in moderation.”

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