The renowned Findhorn community in Moray has less impact on the environment than any other community in the developed world - but its thousands of visitors and residents still fly too much.

A new expert study says the multinational community's ecological footprint is half the UK average. This means Findhorn uses 50% fewer resources and creates 50% less waste than normal.

But the study also points out the amount of air travel by Findhorn residents is more than twice the Scottish average. And visitors coming from abroad each clock up a massive 25,000 kilometres by plane every year.

As a result, Findhorn's environmental impact, though low, is still more than a single planet can sustain. The overall area of its ecological footprint is estimated at 2.56 hectares per person, compared to the 1.8 hectares thought necessary to sustain the world's population.

WWF Scotland, which has led the call for moves to "one-planet living', congratulated Findhorn on its achievements. But the environmental group's director, Dr Richard Dixon, put a sting in the tail. "We all need to do our bit to reduce our footprint on the planet and the people at Findhorn are showing us how to move from our current three-planet lifestyles towards a fair one-planet lifestyle," he said.

"The one fly in the ointment is the amount of air travel Findhorn guests and residents use. This is clearly the key issue for them to work on."

The study was carried out by Professor Stephen Tinsley and Heather George at the Sustainable Development Research Centre in Forres, with the help of the Stockholm Environment Institute at York University. Using interviews with samples of Findhorn's 300 residents and 3000 annual visitors, it estimated the environmental cost of everything they did.

In the "home and energy" category Findhorn scored remarkably well, with a footprint just 22% of the UK average. This is because buildings are designed for efficiency, with good insulation, solar panels and a district heating scheme.

Electricity is supplied by four community-owned wind turbines, which also export 40% of their power to the grid. Community sewage is broken down naturally by an innovative biological treatment process. The impact of Findhorn's food consumption was also only 33% of the average. This is attributed to a high proportion of locally-sourced organic food in the diet and the absence of meat, except at Christmas.

The footprint of the community's consumer goods was 52% of average. This is said to be because many resources are shared, including washing machines and dining facilities.

Findhorn's overall travel footprint is 60% of average, mainly because the distance residents drive in cars is just 6% of the average for Scotland. Many people are employed within the community, minimising the need for commuting.

But when it comes to flying, Findhorn's record is less impressive. The study says residents each fly an average of 8400 kilometres a year, mostly for "leisure purposes". This compares to 3600 kilometres flown by the average Scot.

The footprint of visitors is "dominated by air travel", the study points out. "Sixty-three per cent of the journeys undertaken consisted of either an international flight or a domestic flight.

"This has resulted in a total of 24,788 kilometres per passenger for air travel."

In June Findhorn hosted a visit by 12 government officials from Korea on an environmental fact-finding mission. Earlier in the year 21 ministers and officials from Vietnam came for a two-week visit.

The study concludes by urging residents to use more sustainable forms of transport such as trains. It accepts that cutting air travel for visitors from abroad would be "difficult" but argues that those coming from within the UK should use trains or coaches instead of domestic flights.

Defending the high number of flights, May East, director of international relations of the Findhorn Foundation, said: "Our work takes us to many parts of the world, sharing tools and knowledge with groups and other communities, universities and organisations. Our staff are invited to give presentations, workshops and training. Residents from about 30 countries travel to visit their families. I anticipate we will continue doing so in the foreseeable future."

East, who was born in Brazil, helped the establishment of a United Nations training centre for sustainable energy at Findhorn last year. To promote the centre, she regularly travels abroad, and was in Brazil on Friday.

She added: "One of the ways of addressing the amount of guest travel is by strengthening local, regional and national partnerships and offering activities including a variety of art classes, performances and visits by local schools to the ecological projects."

According to John Barrett, an expert from York University who helped with the study, Findhorn's footprint was the lowest of any of the communities examined.

"We believe that everyone has something to learn from their low footprint lifestyle," he said.