12 PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLES
1. Observe and Interact - The first principle emphasizes the importance of utilizing the environment's resources in such a way that they can be used again in the future. Examples of this include greenhouses storing the sun's energy to keep plants warm or farmers canning spare produce to preserve the food energy for a later date. This principle can be reflected in your daily routines by trying to keep in mind ways that you can make decisions that will continue to positively affect your community for some lengths of time after they are made.
2. Catch and Store Energy - This principle stresses that by developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need. One way that you can practice this is by preserving food for the future. Another way to practice this principle would be to use a rain barrel for watering plants.
3. Obtain a Yield -The first step to obtaining a yield in your permaculture garden is to start out with a clear space of land and design it efficiently. Then you can grow different varieties of crops and herbs in your garden, and you may decide to dedicate part of your garden to compost, which will benefit the environment. While your garden may not produce a large yield initially, your permaculture garden can also provide you with more information about and appreciation for gardening. Obtaining a yield does not have to be a tangible product that can be monetized, but it can also be a byproduct of the process of your adventure in permaculture.
4. Self-Regulate and Accept Feedback - This principle reminds us to take a step back and reflect on our effect on the environment. Are our actions helping or hurting the resources we are using? Are we doing things in the most efficient way possible? By applying self-regulation and accepting feedback, we can look to see if our actions have had their intended effects, and if they have not, we can make changes to move further towards our goal. This principle can also be applied in your daily life, as you reflect upon whether you are reaching your intended goals. One practical application of this principle is openly accepting critiques that others give you, evaluating the critiques, and then putting the critiques into practice in a way that betters yourself and the world around you.
5. Use and Value Renewables - This permaculture principle encourages us to understand which resources or services in our lives are renewable. What renewable resources can you think of that you enjoy in your everyday life? One example would be trees, which produce crops, nuts, oxygen, and so many other resources. By not acknowledging the true value of these resources, we run the risk of wasting their value. So, take a deep breath, and let's appreciate what we have!
6. Produce No Waste - The sixth permaculture principle emphasizes the idea that we should value and make use of the resources we have. One simple example of this is recycling. By recycling, we can reuse a resource and produce less waste. Here, we practice this principle by composting. When we compost, we can take organic materials such as eggshells and vegetable scraps and make them into dirt which can be used in the gardens.
7. Design from Patterns to Detail - This permaculture principle stresses that we should observe both natural and social patterns and apply them to design. In nature, we can find patterns everywhere, from the wings of a butterfly to the petals of a flower. How do you implement patterns into your life?
8. Integrate, not Segregate - This principle maintains that by placing the right things in the right place, relationships can develop between them and they can support each other and work together. This principle can be found across nature and can also be integrated into our own lives. For instance, if you have a rain barrel, it is logical to place it under a gutter or downspout from a house rather than in the middle of your yard. By placing the rain barrel in the right spot, it will collect more rain than when it is in the middle of the yard.
9. Use Small, Slow Solutions - This principle states that small and slow systems are easier to manage than large ones and that by making better use of the local resources we have we can create more sustainable outcomes. Perhaps a better way to put it, though, is with the famous adage “slow and steady wins the race.” One example of this might be using a bicycle as transportation. Another would be producing perishable foods such as green beans, tomatoes, and squash in home gardens.
10. Use and Value Diversity - The idea behind this principle is that diversity reduces vulnerability to possible threats and takes advantage of the environment it is placed in. Frequently, permaculture designs will use a variety of plants. This variety is used not only because it is healthy to have a diverse ecosystem but also because having a diverse ecosystem and an abundance of approaches allows for the possible failure of one plant or approach. If one crop is eaten by a deer or a raccoon, there are still other crops around to eat.
11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal - This principle states that the edge between things is where the most interesting events take place. Furthermore, this is most likely where the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system. One way this might be put into practice is by putting logs around the edge of the garden. The logs can serve two functions. First, they will work as a windbreak for the plants, but they will also slowly breakdown and provide fertility for plants that will grow in the garden in the future.
12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change - The final permaculture principle is that we can have a positive impact on unavoidable changes by carefully observing, and then interceding when the time is right. This can even mean planning for known changes that might occur in our environment. For example, we know that in the fall the weather will change from warm to cool and that gardens will begin to die back. Rather than panic when this change occurs, we can plan for it by planting vegetables more suitable for the cooler weather such as broccoli and cauliflower.