Dustin and I have both studied Permaculture and are constantly striving to incorporate the 12 principles and 3 ethics into our daily lifestyle and business. For those of you who haven't heard of Permaculture before, it's something like this- Consciously designed landscapes and systems inspired by the patterns and relationships found in nature, that yield an abundance of food, fibre and energy for the use beyond the system itself. David Holmgren and Bill Mollison coined the term Permaculture in the mid 1970's in Australia. The truth is, there is no set definition of permaculture. Many instructors have their own slightly different definition. Permaculture can be applied to any lifestyle. It is not only for those in the country. it can be applied to a community in the city! The three permaculture ethics as written in PERMACULTURE A Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison are
1. Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
2. Care of People: Provisions for people to access those resources necessary to their existence.
3. Setting Limits to Population and Consumption: By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.
The 12 Principles of Permaculture:
1. Observe and Interact: It's important before you start designing any system to observe how the natural world is working on its own. From here, we can create designs that best suit us as well as the surrounding ecosystem. For example, by observing a property in the spring, you may find that where you were planning on building your home is also where a large amount of water builds up on the property in the wet season.
2. Catch and Store Energy: Think of water catchment, or sun catchment, or warmth. While resources are abundant, by catching and storing them we have the ability to use them later when we're in need and lacking that specific resource. For example, while it's pouring out, we don't always think about the day when we're going to be wishing we had it. Catch the water while you can, so you can water your soon to be dry garden.
3. Obtain a Yield: Dust and I are hoping to obtain a yield this year- not just enough food to sell to all of you, but also enough to feed ourselves for the year. I think that's important as a farmer- don't forget to feed yourself!
4. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback: Re-visit systems, and make sure that your ecosystem is giving positive feed back to the changes you've made. The systems you create in permaculture ideally should function pretty well without you.
5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services: Take the steps to lessen the use of non renewable resources. By creating systems that focus on renewable resources, the relationship and health between us and the natural world becomes stronger.
6. Produce No Waste: Remember the first step in 'Re-use, Re-duce, Re-cycle" is Re-use. Everything has to go somewhere. By using every bit of something, we lessen the negative impact of waste on the planet. By changing how we think about waste, we may find ourselves surrounded by a lot of useful material and opportunities. Bill Mollison (who with David Holmgren coined the term permaculture) defined a pollutant as ‘an output of any system component that is not being used productively by any other component of the system.’
7. Design from Patterns to Details: By observing (see first principle) a successful ecosystem's array of patterns, we can bring forth those elements to our own designs. Think of the center of a sunflower, the course of a creek, the veins of a leaf.... etc.
8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate: Relationships make up an ecosystem. Simply by having certain elements next to other elements, the system is successful and home to numerous supported micro- relationships. These relationships make for a healthy, diverse, well functioning ecosystem.
9. Use Small and Slow Solutions: Create small systems that are easy to maintain and use local and renewable resources for maximum gain! Remember that permaculture can apply to country and city life. Every time we grow a little bit of our own food, fix something instead of tossing it, or support a local business, we're acting on this principle!
10. Use and Value Diversity: 'Don't put all your eggs in one basket.' Diversity is one element that keeps nature so healthy and determined. Sometimes, people don't understand that monocultures actually aid in the take over of pests and other irritants. This results in a heavy application of pesticides and or herbicides. However, a balanced, diverse system naturally keeps these things in check. If there is an over population of one bug, odds are, soon there won't be because the predator of that bug will soon be feasting. Another example of this principle is create multiple functions that do the same thing in case one for whatever reason does not come out as successful as hoped.
11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal: It's the edges that provide environments with the most diversity and beneficial elements. Create those edges!
12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change: Nature can do just fine without us. However, we can be a valued resource to the environment if we know when to respond and step in to benefit the motion of change that is taking place.
All of these principles relate to each other pretty seamlessly. You may find your own unique meaning to these principles. Permaculture can help us strengthen our relationship with nature, the city, family, friends, strangers, the planet and ourselves. There are many permaculture instructors out there, consider reaching out and doing some of your own research!