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Permaculture Design Principles

Permaculture gives us a range of practical solutions for a better world. These principles are most commonly used in relation to food growing systems, but can also be used to guide us in all parts of our lives.


To help us understand how permaculture leads us to a more ethical and sustainable way of life, it’s useful to look at a list of twelve design principles put forward by David Holmgren in his book "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability":


1. Observe and interact.

By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.

2. Catch and store energy.

By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.

3. Obtain a yield.

Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.

4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback.

We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.

5. Use and value renewable resources and services.

Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources.

6. Produce no waste.

By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.

7. Design from patterns to details.

By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.

8. Integrate rather than segregate.

By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between them and they support each other.

9. Use small and slow solutions.

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.

10. Use and value diversity.

Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

11. Use edges and value the marginal.

The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

12. Creatively use and respond to change.

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

These principles are seen as universal, although the methods used to express them will vary greatly according to the place, the situation and the people implementing them. They are applicable to our personal, economic, social and political reorganisation. Remember them as a guide line but don't forget to think for yourself and what suits you best in your situation. Each principle can be thought of as a door that opens into whole systems thinking, providing a different perspective that can be understood at varying levels of depth and application.

Which one is your favorite permaculture principle?


Observe and interact is my favorite principle. Because it is so easy, but equally easy to forget. Every thing we do has an impact on nature. Through observation and imitation of nature we learn how to integrate ourselves back into the natural environment. Take your time to sit, observe and do nothing to understand what is going on with the various elements in the system. We place our own values on what we observe, yet in nature, there is no right or wrong, only different. 


Produce no waste. Luckily this principle is starting to be widely implemented these days. In a nnatural environment waste doesn't exist. Everything gets eaten by something and ends up being food for something else. The biggest impact we can do ist to start composting. It turns our food waste into much needed fertilizer, provides habitat for important microorgansims and acts as a storage for CO2. 

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