I recently started a course at Hollybush Conservation Centre called Introduction to Permaculture taught by Joe Atkinson. I have learn so much in the few months I have been attending the class and learn more about the little steps people can take to lead more sustainable lives. I got to meet interesting and incredibly smart people whilst doing it, who also taught me loads about the environment and society…though I admit being smarter than me isn’t hard!
Permaculture, like Sustainability has an open ended definition, thereby making it accessible for people from all walks of life and making it more flexible and adaptable to different circumstances and changing society. The founders of it – Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren – developed the term from their initial research idea of permanent agriculture.
They wanted to create a design system whereby users can be self-sufficient for minimum effort. The idea is that the garden/agricultural system replicates the natural ecosystem to increase diversity, thereby enhancing resilience and productivity. It does not have set rules, but works on a set of 3 main ethics: Earthshare, Fairshare and People Care. These are surrounded by 12 principles:
1. Observe and interact
2. Catch and store energy
3. Obtain a yield
4. Apply self regulation and accept feedback
5. Use and valuable renewable sources and services
6. Produce no waste
7. Design from patterns to details
8. Integrate rather and segregate
9. Use small and slow solutions
10. Use and value diversity
11. Use edges and value the marginal
12. Creatively use and respond to change
Again, these are simply a set of guidelines, not rules on how to lead a more sustainable life based on mimicking natural systems. One of the most simple ways of following these principles in learning how to reuse items to lower your waste. For example, cutting open an empty plastic milk bottle and turning it into a dustpan for a brush or as a pencil holder.
It’s a creative way to overcome the issues of waste and gets you thinking creatively about what other uses items can have. Making a list of all the possible uses and then deciding which one you need the most is the best way of making full use out of an item. Also making turning them into multi-purpose items such as using a toilet roll as a poster holder and then using it as phone holder by making a slit in the side and placing pins on the bottom to stop it from rolling.
It does not promote the idea of environmental issues as all doom and gloom, but provides a design system by which people can come together to create fun solutions to sustainability issues. As a beginner I still have loads to learn, especially permaculture draws from a range of disciplines, most of which I know nothing about. For example, designing a permaculture garden relies on the knowledge of horticulture, biology, micro-climates, seasonal change, shadow, soil types, pollinators and Mycelia.
For further information please see:
Interviews with Permaculture creators: [Accessed 09/11/2013] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQiT9iEFRSk
The Permaclture Ethics and Principles Diagram: [Accessed 09/11/2013] http://permacultureprinciples.com/principles/
Ways of reusing objects: [Accessed 09/11/2013] http://seriouslyforreal.com/seriously-for-real/99-life-hacks-that-could-make-your-life-easier/