Welcome to Serenbe: The Utopian Town You Need to Hear About
It almost sounds too good to be true. Almost.
Morning yoga in the meadows. Farm-to-table cooking classes. Nature trails you can see from your window. Okay, this may sound like the ultimate #SelfCareSunday retreat. But what if we told you this could be the new way of living for everyone?
Welcome to Serenbe: a progressive wellness community focused on a more sustainable, mindful, and artful way of living. Located just 30 miles from Atlanta, Georgia, the 1000-acre town was founded by Steve Nygren, a former restauranteur, who first had the idea in the early 90s. "I was born and raised in Colorado, and come from Scandinavian roots," says Nygren. "So, I've always valued the importance of living an environmentally-conscious life." While on a jog with his daughter nearby their Atlanta home one day, Nygren recalls: "We came across a bulldozer, ready to plow through land and make way for new buildings and it made me think, there's got to be a way to build and expand without destroying so much of nature."
In 2004, Serenbe welcomed its first home. Since then, sustainable and mindful construction has been at the forefront of expanding the town.
Currently, about 600 residents - from young professionals and families to artists and chefs - reside in the town which even has its own newspaper, the Serenbe Hamlet.
In some ways, Serenbe may seem like any other small American town with its friendly-neighborhood charm and everything you could possibly need just a stone's throw away. It also functions like any other town with schools, restaurants, shops, parks, and medical centers. Anybody can visit, rent an apartment, or buy a home (the average starting price for a 4-bedroom is just shy of $700,000). But unlike other cities, it's being deemed an "utopian experiment in New Urbanism" with no other place in the country just like it.
Guidelines for building homes and businesses in the town respect the area's natural serpentine-like formation. By building alongside the land's hills and valleys, rather than through them, there is minimal land disturbance. The town also makes efforts to conserve water through irrigation systems and many of the homes use geothermal heating and cooling systems, as well as solar power.
In keeping with this greener way of living, the community - which has won the Urban Land Institute's Inaugural Sustainability Award - also boasts eco-amenities like: regular recycling and composting practices, a 25-acre organic farm, an active CSA program, weekly farmer's markets, edible landscape (to make foraging easy and accessible to all), and even blueberry bushes along the sidewalks.
If you're not yet swooning over this wellness wonderland, the town isn't just built around sustainability; it's also specially designed to foster a sense of community Nygren believes has been lost over the years. "Years ago, living well was simpler. Since then, we've become obsessed with how much land we could own and how much space we could put between ourselves and our neighbors," he says. "Today, with technology, we've even become so far removed from nature and our surroundings."
At Serenbe, all the houses are built a certain proximity from each other and from the street (making greeting your neighbors each morning nearly effortless). Each house must also have a porch with all porches connecting directly to the street. And when it comes time to grab your mail each day, you'll have the added bonus of a scenic walk as central post boxes, located near common areas like cafes, replace personal ones. Oh, and pretty much everything is within walking distance.
Paying homage to the golden days of "slow living" - before we were digitally wired and constantly on the go - Serenbe also nods to a new way of living for the future. Here, the now trendy, and sometimes luxurious, ideas of "mindful living" and "wellness lifestyles" become the norm. Just peruse the town's local events calendar and you'll notice regular activities like farm tours, trail walks, wine tastings, art and dinner talks, seasonal outdoor festivals, and wellness days (farm-fresh meals, yoga sessions, meditations, and cold pressed juice breaks included).
And if by now you're thinking this might be to good to be true (okay, you're convinced it's definitely a wellness-obsessed cult), Nygren says: "Many people think Serenbe sounds unreal. But to the critics and cynics who see this as ‘cult-ish', I say, what's so unreal about bringing back community, core values of living well, and ultimately, hope?"
Hopeful that Serenbe truly is the start of something new, we'll definitely be keeping our eyes on how things pan out in this Georgian town. Meanwhile, if you're feeling inspired to bring a little more wellness into your life, consider these 8 ways to live more sustainably at home or find out how to treat yourself to a soothing self-massage.