What are Permaculture Design Principles?

Permaculture is a design system that provides 12 guidelines or principles for sustainable living.

It has been around since the 1970s and it was designed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.

The idea behind permaculture is to make our lives more sustainable by using natural resources in a way that doesn’t deplete them.

Permaculture principles are based on the idea of sustainability, which is the ability to provide for human needs without damaging or depleting natural resources.

Permaculture applies natural systems, rather than human-made ones, to create a sustainable food production system. These permaculture principles are applied by using trees, shrubs, plants and animals.

What are the 12 Permaculture Design Principles?

The 12 permaculture principles are:

1. Observe, Orient, Decide and Act

This principle is all about observation. Permaculture principles are based on observing nature and learning from it to create a sustainable food production system.

You observe the surrounding environment, orient yourself within it by identifying your “position” in the landscape, decide what is to be done, and act on your decisions.

2. Catch and Store Energy

grey water system

By strategically placing plants, trees, hedges, ponds etc. at different points on the property we can create a more self-sufficient property that has less need for outside resources such as electricity or water.

Embody principles such as catchment, water harvesting, and grey water systems in order to ensure that crops are watered and processed water can be reused.

3. Obtain a Yield

This principle is about creating a property that has a harvest, even if it’s just for the enjoyment and benefit of the owner.

Fruit Somtam - Thai Cooking Class in Trat

4. Apply Self-regulation and Accept Feedback

Self-regulation is a way to manage a farm or homestead in a sustainable way.

It helps to maintain the balance between the natural resources and human needs. It also ensures that there are no adverse effects on the environment and other living beings.

The principle of self-regulation can be applied to your permaculture homestead in many ways. For example, by designing your garden with plants that have similar water requirements so you don’t overuse water, or by designing your house so it will collect rainwater from the roof for use on gardens and other plants.

5. Produce No Waste

The most important thing is to make use of the waste you create such as grey water for irrigation, reusing old packaging, fixing old tools, and composting, etc.

It is even possible to feed unwanted items from your harvests and kitchen scraps to your chickens, using their manure for fertilising your garden.

Food scraps and weeds can also be composted, straw can be used for bedding for hens or other animals, and the bedding can be reused as mulch. You can also use wood ash to improve soil in your garden.

Keeping Chickens to produce no waste is one of the Permaculture Design Principles

In addition to producing no waste, we must also make a conscious effort to find multiple uses for everything we bring onto our homesteads. In the spring, you can use plastic cups as seedling pots and old milk jugs as cold frames to recycle any single-use items that find their way onto your property. Consider all waste and use your imagination to find solutions! 

6. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

By learning to use resources more efficiently we can ensure that our own waste doesn’t turn into an environmental catastrophe.

7. Design from Patterns to Details

Adapt natural systems to support human activities. When designing agricultural plots or communities we should try to work with the natural processes of our surrounding environment instead of battling against them.

8. Integrate Rather than Segregate

Permaculture is a system that integrates human activity with natural cycles and patterns, such as planting crops in the same place each year and using natural fertilisers.

Permaculture design has been used by farmers for decades to create sustainable agricultural systems that are both profitable and environmentally sound.

Animals play an important role in the permaculture system because they provide additional sources of income, improve soil fertility, increase biodiversity and help maintain ecosystem balance.

heavily pruned moringa tree - integrating Permaculture Design Principles

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions

The world is changing and it is time to change with it.

Take baby steps to get started on your journey towards a more sustainable future.

Start by assessing the current state of your lifestyle and home.

Make a plan for how you want to live more sustainably in the future, and then create a timeline for when you want to achieve these goals.

Educate yourself about the benefits of living sustainably, such as saving money, growing your own food and reducing stress levels.

Find ways to make your lifestyle more sustainable without sacrificing too much convenience or comfort.

Find support from friends, family and build like-minded, local communities.

10. Foster Diversity

Permaculture - David HolmgrenWhen designing human habitats and agriculture systems we should strive for a diverse population of plants, animals, and insects.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Edges can be planned in both natural and constructed environments. Examples of edges in permaculture include: land borders, oceans, bodies of water, and habitat boundaries.

It is necessary to have some sort of edge or borders between a sustainable garden and the surrounding area. The edge can be natural or manmade.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

The only constant in life is change. We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

The frog is a positive symbol of transformative change in nature, from its previous life as tadpole. The proverb “vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be” reminds us that understanding change is much more than a linear projection.

Tree Frog

In Conclusion

Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles cantered on simulating or directly utilising the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.

Permaculture, as a method of farming that has many benefits for humanity. It’s more sustainable because it doesn’t require the use of expensive inputs like fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides.

It also produces more food than conventional agriculture because it uses space more efficiently. Learn about the 9 layers of a permaculture food forest here.

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Discover the 12 Permaculture Design Principles

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