Permaculture sounds complex. And it is, since it’s a way of integrating what you eat, where you live, the energy you use, how you use resources like soil and water, the climate where you live and the ethics of sustainable living. But this doesn’t mean you can’t start small. In fact, permaculture is about the individual and the community, not about big organizations and government involvement. There are plenty of ways to make permaculture practical. Here we look at some applications of the system into easy ways to help save our planet. You can start right in your backyard or community.
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10. Living roofs are cleaning the air and supplying the kitchen
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A rooftop garden will teach you about the seasonal cycles of nature and harvest, as well as bring food that you’ve grown to the table! It will be an oasis in an urban skyline. It can insulate. Plus, growing things is fun.
One of the first principles of Permaculture is to observe nature, and interact with it. Among the easiest ways to make permaculture practical and engage closely with nature when you don’t have a plot of land is to grow a garden in recycled containers on the roof.
Get yourself a book on permaculture. Set up junk like old packing crates, worn tires or hammer a few pallets together, place a line of plastic with holes for drainage, pour in sand, soil, compost and mulch and voila. You can plant anything from herbs to beans to spinach, tomatoes, beets, peppers and more. Your green roof could become a beautiful place to live and work.
Your impressed friends and neighbors will learn from you, and grow their own green roofs. Living roofs can be good examples of how permaculture saves the planet a step at a time.
9. Sun-drying and storing surplus food saves energy and meets shortage
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Another principle of permaculture is to collect and store free energy when you can, for times of shortage. Sunlight is one of the most freely available forms of energy, waiting to be harnessed.
Sun-drying herbs and veggies for a time of shortage is one of the ways to make permaculture practical. When cyclone Yasi destroyed banana crops in Australia in 2011, permaculturists who had dried excess bananas could enjoy it when prices were high due to shortage.
8. Permaculture is rewarding for the community
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While permaculture saves the planet, you must be able to reap rewards to be able to sustain it. Many communities have made a satisfying and successful business out of permaculture. For instance, the London-based Growing Communities grows little urban farms on empty plots and sells its produce in their farmers’ market.
Rewards don’t have to only mean money. A tree full of fruit, excesses preserved for winter and high productivity are also great motivators to keep going.
7. Permaculture can reduce carbon footprints from bottled water
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One of the easy ways to help save our planet is to stop buying water at the supermarket. The environmental costs of bottled water are huge. They have a sizeable carbon footprint of 82.8 grams of CO2 for half a liter. Why spend a thousand times more on bottled water when you could just re-fill your bottle with tap water? There’s no evidence to suggest bottled water is any different from tap water.
What does this have to do with permaculture? While you try to live a sustainable life, you should stop yourself from inappropriate actions. Teach your kids to do so as well. Teach them that permaculture saves the planet.
6. Kids can learn about recycling and sustainability through play
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There’s no better gift that you can give your kids than lessons in sustainable living. Teach by example, by building them an eco-friendly, hardy driftwood seasaw, for instance. Or get them engaged in making a clock out of the sprocket from an old bike. Kids learn through play. Yet most modern toys are energy guzzlers, of little educational value and ultimately end up in the landfill. As your kids grow up learning to value nature through their recycled toys, you’ll appreciate that they are investing in their own futures.
5. Permaculturists produce no waste
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“Waste not, want not” is an old but powerful adage that suggests one of the most easy ways to help save our planet. Keep your waste to a minimum, and you’re already doing a lot. There is no waste in the natural ecosystem. Everything that comes out of the earth, goes back into it. Mimicking this by composting kitchen scraps, paper products and cardboard is one of the best ways to make permaculture practical.
4. Encourages collaboration in the community
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Permaculture is also about integration and valuing diversity. Practically, this could mean encouraging carpooling and public transport in your community, coming up with a group handshake that makes everyone feel connected, or organizing group planting and harvesting sessions at your community farm.
3. Encourages the local and seasonal
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When you buy fresh, local produce whenever possible, you’re discouraging the packaged, processed foods in supermarkets. You’re also helping your community with their livelihood. Farmers’ markets are the best places to find seasonal produce that also give you the assurance that you’re not consuming chemical preservatives.
2. Highlights the beauty of the edge
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Homes in overcrowded Tokyo still manage to make space for potted gardens with creative thinking. There’s a lot we can learn from them about planting along the urban edges, in balcony gardens, containers, vines on roof spaces, potting benches and so on. Even homes with small front yards, no flat roof and not a lot of soil can plant urban vegetable gardens. As permaculturists say, the marginal and the edge are often more interesting than the popular.
1. Keeps traditional crafts alive
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Permaculture is not only about helping nature but also about helping people and the community. Traditional crafts like carving chess pieces out of wood, weaving mats and baskets out of straw etc. are crafts and cultures that can be preserved with the help of leaders who take initiative. Organizing a crafts fair in your community is a good way to take the lead.
Did you find these successful ideas for introducing permaculture into your own life useful? Which ones do you think you’d be able to sustain? Are there other ways you think you can adopt permaculture, save the planet with small steps and leave the children a better world?