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The 14 Permaculture Principles

The word permaculture may be unfamiliar to some of you, so I'll briefly explain the meaning. It was coined by two Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1959. The word is a contraction of both "permanent culture" and "permanent agriculture". They reasoned that if life and indigenous culture had been thriving on Earth for billions of years, then life and indigenous cultures must have figured something out.

Permaculture began as a set of tools for designing landscapes that were modelled after nature. If we tend to think of organic gardening, renewable energy, recycling and conscience decision making as tools for sustainability, then permaculture is the toolbox that helps us organize these tools. Permaculture shows us where and how to apply these important ideas and it is guided by a set of ethics: caring for Earth, caring for living things and reinvesting the surplus.


1. OBSERVE. Use thoughtful observations rather than thoughtless action. Observe the location in all seasons and then design accordingly.

2. CONNECT. Place the elements of your design in ways to create relationships/connections. The number of connections creates healthy, diverse ecosystems.

3. CATCH AND STORE ENERGY & MATERIALS. Collect flows. Every cycle is an opportunity for yield, every gradient (slope, charge, temperature etc) can produce energy.

5. EACH ELEMENT PERFORMS MULTIPLE FUNCTIONS. Carefully choose and place each element so that it can perform as many functions as possible. Useful connections between various elements create a stable whole.

4. EACH FUNCTION HAS AN IMPACT. Use multiple methods to achieve important functions and create synergies. Redundancy is important when one or more elements fail.

6. MAKE THE LEAST CHANGE FOR THE GREATEST EFFECT. Understand the system you're dealing with to find it's "leverage points" and adjust there, where the least amount of work can accomplish the most change.

7. USE SMALL-SCALE SYSTEMS. Start small and then build on your successes. Once you have arrangements that work well together, repeat them.

8. COLLABORATE WITH SUCCESSION. Living organisms grow and then mature, if we accept this and adjust our designs with it instead of against it, we can save energy and work.

9. OPTIMIZE EDGE. The edge is the intersections of two environments and is the most diverse place within a system. Increase or decrease edge as needed.

10. USE BIOLOGICAL AND RENEWABLE RESOURCES. This refers to living beings and their products; they reproduce over time, store energy, assist yield and interact with other elements. Favor this over non-renewable resources.

11. TURN PROBLEMS INTO SOLUTIONS. Problems often inspire creativity to get over these bumps in the road. Problems themselves usually carry their solutions and also solutions to other potential problems you haven't thought of yet. Use this and turn it into a positive!

12. GET A YIELD. Create a design that plans for immediate and long-term yields.

13. BIGGEST LIMIT TO ABUNDANCE IS CREATIVITY. The creators thoughts and creativity usually limit productivity before any physical limit is reached.

14. MISTAKES ARE FOR LEARNING FROM. Making mistakes are prone to happen and show that you're willing to learn, so do just that.

Readings these principles, you'll probably think to yourself that they can apply to more than just gardening which is completely true; however, most people come to permaculture through their love of plants and gardening so I will focus on that in my posts.

In future posts I will go into the many ways to use these principles and for us to create healthy ecological systems!

The information from this post is from the book called "Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture By Toby Hemenway. I highly recommend this one!

Edmonton, AB, Canada

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