Permaculture is a term developed and coined by Australian co-founders Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978 that stems from “permanent agriculture”.
There are several ways to define permaculture as it has been an evolving theme. In very few words, I explain that permaculture is a design science rooted in the observation of natural ecosystems and applied to create landscapes that are regenerative and provide for the needs of human communities.
Similarly, on his website, permaculture co-founder David Holmgren defines permaculture as “consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus, the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.” holmgren.com.au
And as Bill Mollison explains, “The aim is to create systems that are ecologically-sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute, and are therefore sustainable in the long term […]” – Introduction to Permaculture, 1991.
In practical terms, permaculturists observe and design your property by working with nature rather than against it, so that you can grow a lush, productive and resilient space both for people and other species.
Designs are based on the analysis of landscape attributes such as:
- existing infrastructures,
- local climate,
- sun exposure,
- prevailing winds,
- risks of fires, floods and frosts, etc.
Permaculture Ethics & Principles
The design of permaculture systems is based on 3 ethics:
Care for the Earth
Care for the People
Fair Share: Share the surplus / set a limit to population and consumption
… and 12 principles illustrated below
1. Goal setting
The design of permaculture systems starts with defining the intended objective: what are we trying to achieve; what context do we work in; and what elements do we want: home, workshop, medinical garden, business area, meditation space, body of water, wildlife sanctuary, all of the above…?
→ This ensure everyone is clear on what type of landscape we are going to create and for what purpose.
2. Landscape observation and analysis
The process then follows with a thorough observation and analysis of the natural patterns of the landscape: what do the natural ecosystems of your bioregion look like; what climate are you in; are you on flat terrain or on hillside; what type of soil have you got; how much sun and rain do you receive seasonally; where do the winds come from; have there ever been any records of fires, frost or floods in the surroundings…?
→ This analysis allows us to recognise the influences we face, ensuring we work with Nature rather than against it.
3. Concept Design
Once we have gained a good understanding of the land, we can develop a proposed concept design. It includes the analysis, inter-connection and initial placement of elements. This is done according to the landscape analysis and passive flows of energy, such as gravity.
→ We thereby create closed-loop systems where the output of an element becomes the input to another one, avoiding waste and creating sustainable and resilient biosystems.
4. Detailed Design
The last step is to issue the detailed design. This is when we list a selection of plants (+/- animals) adapted to the project, develop a project implementation plan as well as a maintenance plan.
→ This provides clear guidelines for implementing the design and looking after the landscape until it reaches maturity.
Veganism is defined as a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude all forms of animal exploitation for food, clothing or any other purpose as it recognises all species for their intrinsic value as opposed to commercial potential. Every year, a growing number of academic studies and respected bodies such as the United Nations, Project Drawdown and Universities recognise that the reduction or avoidance of animal products can yield many benefits to humans, animals and the environment.
So where traditional permaculture often integrates chicken and other farm animals for meat, eggs and other commodities, veganic permaculture does not rely on the use of animals and their by-products. It absolutely values and integrates the role of domesticated or wild animals as part of a balanced ecology, but does not seek to utilise their products or services for our benefit.
Veganic permaculture design considers plants, wildlife and other free-living animals (like rescue individuals, if applicable) such as in truly natural ecosystems, ensuring their needs for habitat, food and natural behaviours are met. It replaces animal manure and other by-products with living mulch systems, permanent ground cover, green manure, plant-based compost, etc. Feel free to read our blog post about practices in veganic permaculture if you’re interested in learning more.
Veganic permaculture is suitable for anyone who may decide not to keep domesticated animals as part of their permaculture project, either because of a lack of time, energy, skills, financial implications, or simply because they don’t want responsibilities or may periodically travel.