Process of Permaculture Design

The basic stages in the design process are research, creating ideas, creating the design, and presenting it. But this is not a linear process. The process is more like a spiral. Deeper understanding and more ideas come as you dive in. Each time we take a step back we build a better design.

Research, Ideate, Create, Present – Four stages of Design Process

To be honest, one of the biggest sections of your design process will be the research. In the research phase, we collect the goals of the clients and ourselves and the ethics. And then we look at the data. Like: all the different types of maps and the permissions that you need to apply for. And the sectors of natural energies that are reaching the site. And then we look at the capability of this site and the people that are going to be involved in changing that site.

identifying elements (component) of the design is an important part of the process

So, we have goals, your objectives and the client’s objectives. We have ethics and sometimes, there can be a conflict of ethics. And we have dreams.

Process Starts Boring, Gets Exciting

In the data we’re going to be looking for permissions required. And different types of maps. To be honest, we will need to do some mapping it ourselves to get the finer details. From this, we will identify the sectors: all the different natural energies that come to the site. When we’re looking at the social aspects of a design, we’re going to look at the historical use of that site. And then, the community values.

By listening to the community, we connect with them. The capability assessment of a site will look at the different assets that are on the site: the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And the risks. And then the skills and the interests of the people involved.

stages of design process - research, ideate, create, present

IDEATE – Understand Components

When we get to the ideation stage (where we put ideas onto paper), we’re going to look at the different elements that we can use (or the different components in the design). We identify the different components wanted by the client. And those needed. And we analyze them. Then we look at the function.

Look at Functions

And we look at different functions from each element. And different elements or components that will meet those functions. ‘Sort of like having safeguards. Then we put this all together in an array a pattern or a shape.

So getting to the elements: we list them. And we analyze them for how useful they are going to be. And how useful connections. There’s a whole bunch of elements you can use in a design. But let’s just take one. For instance the bee. We know what its needs are. We identify the level of expertise

required. And we know it produces or what its function can be. And the main function of the bee is to actually pollinate crops. Not just give us honey.

analyse components such as bees as part of the process

Process of Functional Connections

We use three factors to work out the best placement for an element these three factors are the sectors, zoning and the integration with other elements. So, let’s take an example of the worm farm. The worm farm benefits from shade. It also benefits from being in a nearby zone.

So, it’s not difficult for the user to carry waste food waste from the kitchen to that worm farm. Then, we integrated them. We ask: “What other elements can benefit from the worm farm? The castings and the water from the worm farm is fertilizer for delicate plants in the nursery. So, we position it between the kitchen and the nursery and in the shade.”

integration of worm farm and kitchen and plant nursery is part of the process

The Design Creation

Then we move on to that stage of creating the design. We’ve got some ideas for the strategies that we can use to achieve the function. Remember, that strategy of using and cycling the waste by using chickens? But, we know we can also use worms and compost piles. Our strategy is to cycle the nutrients. But, the different ways to do that with chickens or compost pile are the techniques. The third thing within the creation stage is looking at patterns – where things will flow.

finding resources, different techniques and strategies is part of the process

Feedback Enriches Process

In the discussion stage you’ll be talking to your client about the concepts. And you’ll be setting about to make a staging plan: what should come now, what can wait until later. And finally, you want to think about how you can accept feedback. How it can improve your work every stage in this process. We can have little feedback loops. Oh! that’s a good idea. I’m going to put that into my next plan!

The ultimate goal of your design is to empower the client. Maybe the client is yourself. By finding ways to empower the client you will find a way to bring the design to life. And by having that design implemented you get to assess how good it is.

Finding joy in the creation process

Waste Less – Want Less

The best way to lighten our footprint is to consume less. Then the next best way is to find ways to use the stuff to its full potential. Finally, lets use our waste to regenerate the environment.

Every dollar we spend has the power to influence what the producers create. And how we limit, convert, or use our waste has the power to influence our environment. Let’s use this power for good.

Mindful consumption

Mindful consumption has three stages. Firstly, there’s the respect and awareness of the waste generated throughout the total life of the product. Secondly, there’s the search for ways to use the materials to their full potential. Then thirdly, we find ways to reclaim the materials to regenerate the environment.

To buy or not to buy! That is the basic question. Above all refuse everything that cannot be recycled. And, if you get a choice, choose materials that cost less energy to produce and cost less energy to recycle. For instance, both wood and metal biodegrade. But wood costs less to create and is less dangerous as it degrades.

Gull nesting with plastics

The Consumer Trap

As consumers we’re trapped in an ongoing cycle where resources are taken from the earth They are manufactured as cheaply as possible. Then we like it. But soon forsake it for the next big thing. But we need to resist everything that is harmful.

Every day, waste washes up on tiny island beaches and it’s often from another country. The truth is we don’t know the real cost of our waste. Nylon is one of the biggest pollutants in city harbours. The Nano plastics, tiny plastics, can get into our skin and bloodstream. Next time you buy underwear, check the material. Plastic based materials include nylon and elastin whereas natural fibers include cotton and wool. And when you go to throw out the old underpants that are made of natural fibers you can put them into the worm farm.

Plastic-free comfortable underpants

It’s a good idea to know the true cost of the manufacture the mining, the wearing or using, and the disposal of a product. The true cost of the mining of materials includes the loss of habitat, loss of carbon into the atmosphere, loss of soil to absorb water, and polluted streams and rivers. And mining often occurs in remote areas in communities of vulnerable people. And in countries of poor governance. As a consumer, do we want support the abuse of vulnerable communities?

Blind consumption – Take, Make, Like then Forsake

Why Throw That All Away?

In the consumer trap we take make like and forsake. That’s pretty much blind consumption. Alternatively, it would be great to live with purposeful consumption where we accept stuff that we can determine its reuse. Then we protect it by maintaining it maybe even improve it by restoring it or retrofitting it. Later, when we don’t need it anymore, we let someone else have it. Ghandi said “Live simply so others may simply live”. Cutting harmful consumption lets all beings can live better.

Purposeful consumption – accept, protect, retrofit, then donate

Exploring the R’s

Reusing something doesn’t change the product or its function. Whereas, repurposing it gives it a totally different function. For instance, we can reuse a jar to store leftovers then as the jar gets old and scratched we can reuse it for seed raising or a potted plant. A fun reuse of a product is to redistribute it. To share it. Sharing spreads goodwill. Think about the full cost of hoarding. Do you desire a home for stuff or a home for people?

Reuse, Repurpose and Redistribute

Repair, Retrofit , Remodel and Restore

Things usually break because we are using them. This means they have value to us and our part of our lives. And having an attitude to repair things helps us to deal with mistakes and failures better than this some repairs can make the items stronger or more beautiful patchwork and invisible mending turns a piece of clothing into a walking artwork. There are repair cafes all around the world they bring people together the knowledge keepers feel valued and the consumer discovers how to fix things.

Repair and Retrofit

Now let’s have a look at restoration. Nature is that it is forever optimistic life doesn’t give up it pushes through and it demands to find a way. Nature will colonize a building with mold and plants and it will slowly turn the building back into soil. Maintaining things saves energy saves resources and it honours our heritage.

Redesign and Regenerate

We can place things at random or we can consider their use and their interaction and integrate them in the example on the left where there’s random placement of things the car or the van is a pollution source to the pond it’s a threat to the chickens and the falling fruit is a bit of a menace if it’s near the pathway whereas in the designed placement the palm tree shades the van the van doesn’t pollute the pond because there’s a filtering garden between and the fallen fruit goes directly to the chickens beyond converting waste into new products or finding more efficient connections.

There are many ways to use waste to regenerate the environment. The simplest regenerative act is to save seed and grow it into a new plant. And a hedge is a regenerative substitute for the rusting metal fence.

Turn Waste into Wealth

Food waste becomes fertilizer. Grey water benefits gardens. And restored homes, antiques and vintage clothing can turn a profit.

In summary, we reduce waste by refusing non-recyclables, resisting hazardous materials and sharing items. Then we explore the many ways to get full use out of things. This includes reusing, repurposing, retrofitting, repairing, remodelling and restoring. Ultimately, the best avoidance of waste lies in the redesign of the items so that they are easily deconstructed and responsibly repurposed and recycled. Finally, we redesign our lifestyles so we use things more efficiently.

Next time you buy something: choose the product that is made with biological resources. Because nature works for free seven days a week and it doesn’t need any help from us to recycle.

Learn more with us at PermacultureVisions.

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Armchair Activism – 7 Things You Can Do

spoof on superman

Permaculture designs a greener lifestyle. And we have a wealth of techniques to reduce our impact on the environment. But for once, lets sit back and explore what can be in the comfort of an armchair. Get comfortable. Don a knee rug. Grab your glasses. And join in.

Greg Knight Quality Engineer, BMet Host of WhyNotWollongong,
Founder of Wollongong Power and Renew Illawarra Convenor

7 Armchair Actions

1. Invest in Someone

Traditionally we leave money in our will and have no idea how that will be spent. But there are other options. We can invest in green technologies for your beneficiaries and help them create a greener future. For example: Buy solar panels for a friend or your adult children’s home. For $6k in the bank you would be lucky to earn about 1% = $60 interest for the year. You can buy a solar panel system for about the same amount of money.

A generous act like this has compounding benefits. It will save your adult child $750 per year in reduced power costs and export tariff. Not only have you saved your child money for decades but you have also greened the grid. Even little investments like solar toys spark their imagination and build a better future. These include little gifts like a solar-powered torch. Your gift makes a change for many people and for nature.

2. Make Your Super Truly Super

Move your money away from ecologically damaging investments. Change your super fund category to green. If your fund doesn’t offer a green and ethical category, change funds. Super is a powerful tool for mature investors.

3. Green Your Investments

Green your share portfolio. Forget currencies that guzzle valuable energy. Look at what the super investment companies are choosing for their green funds.

Abandon fossil fuel assets. These will eventually become stranded assets. And their value is likely to plummet, not slowly decline.

4. Lobby

Lobby for change. You can lobby on a national scale for example Australia could save a lot of energy by simply upgrading the voltage of the national grid. And the USA could save a huge amount of energy by allowing people to dry their clothes outdoors.

“Your local Council is capable of making fundamental changes to our living systems in a way to improve our climate. Understand the actions your Council is taking on your behalf. Read their climate plan. Find ways this can be improved. And lobby your local Councillor. Write letters offering a fresh perspective, background research and creative solutions,

Thinking globally, subscribe to newsletters of the Climate,  donate to their cause or join their campaigns. The Citizens Climate Lobby offers training on how to influence politicians and start a conversation.” Greg noted.

5. Support Sustainable Technology

Australia is leading the wor\ld with solar panel installation. This is because it works. One family after another has invested. They have discovered the pay back on investment is around 5 years. After that you can enjoy free electricity.

Support sustainable technology such as electric cars. These can be powered by your solar system. When the time comes, replace your current gas or old electric hot water system with a timed heat pump system. Heat/cool your house with an air conditioner. Their clever use of physics provides 3-5 times the heating/cooling power than conventional systems. Investigate ways to stop air leaks and air movement in your main living room. How many bodies (at 100w each) does it take to heat your living room?

King Henry is surrounded by a dense crowd of kneeing subjects. Everyone is heavily cloaked in the dim, austere hall. They ask: Is the room warm enough now?
How many bodies (at 100w each) does it take to heat your living room?

Downsize and get cosy. Use smaller rooms as a winter hideaway or snug. And rug up. Retrosuburbia has lots of ideas on how to downsize and be closer to your family and friends.

6. Get Collective

Community power collectives include the Windfarm in Hepburn. What project could your street get into?

7. Upskill

Even from your armchair, you can make a difference. When you are happy in the armchair, you buy less and learn more.

Learn more about your community waste and how it can be repurposed. Also, learn how to improve and manage your home. Your home is not a box. It interacts with the climate outside. You can open the sunny windows or blinds in the morning and close them in the afternoon.

Learn more with our online method. We provide a wealth of course notes, videos and personal mentorship.

Living By Design – Not Default

“We can either live life through design or through default” Say Dr Charlie Brennan and Bridget O’Brien of Garden Juju Collective.  In our interview, Charlie discusses ethics in Permaculture and his involvement in group projects to help us design a better future’.

Design or Default – The Choice to be Active or Passive

Charlie came from Dartmoor, UK to Australia as a young man. His family also lived in Singapore during his teens. “One of the things I studied in my doctorate was eco-psychology. I feel like a sense of place became a big thing”. Because of the moves in his youth “which were both very exciting but also kind of dislocating”. In his research Charlie uncovered eugenic narratives by Joseph Campbell. “we need to understand the stories we’re living or the stories will live us”

One the things that came out of Charlie’s study was that the importance of a critical approach. That doesn’t mean criticizing it means looking at the arrangements we enter ourselves into. And learning from practice.

Permaculture Design is a Practice Not a Doctrine

“it’s very much about practice. It’s not about some doctrine. Permaculture isn’t a doctrine. It’s a set of practices which are exciting and fantastic. And they need to be evolving all the time… Anything can be treated as a doctrine. Permaculture can be, so can football training…but that’s not necessarily useful. It’s useful to keep things as an active set of practices.

Photo by ALEXANDRE DINAUT on Unsplash

Ethical Framework of Permaculture

“Permaculture is fantastic. It also is problematic sometimes. But it’s probably the only framework to address everything that’s going on. So it’s incredibly valuable. And it’s fantastic especially for holistic systemic thinking. It’s fantastic for engaging with the organic world and as a practical guide to getting things done. It’s for people who want to do something different, sustainable, regenerative and healing.”

“Ethics drives permaculture and what we’re all trying to do. Because we’re always evaluating the you know how effective or good or better this action is over that action.

Permaculture has Ethics but isn’t an Ethical System

The three ethics of permaculture (Care of Planet, Care of People and Fair Share) are more an ethic rather than a set of ethics, But they’re not ethical systems. Ethical systems offer a way of evaluating complex dilemmas that are incredibly hard to work out. For instance, we might ask: ‘do these trees stay in or do these trees come out? Do we involve these people or not? What do we do with the produce? Where do we share it? Where do we put boundaries around our knowledge versus sharing?’ All these things incredibly complicated.

Ethical Systems

Ethical systems include utilitarianism, care ethics or deontology. Charlie thinks these traditional forms of ethical approach are still really important. “We ask is it your sacred duty to live your life as close to your values as you can?

It’s challenging. But it’s also very exciting. We can suggest systems that people get a chance to explore for themselves. We ask people to look at Carol Gilligan’s care ethics. This is about 30 years old. It is sometimes seen as a feminist approach to ethics. It is unlike a bunch of old white men being quite abstract (which has its place)”. Ethics by Carol Gilligan questions the qualities of the relationship around you. And of course, there are many valuable “ethical systems from indigenous values and practices”.

Design Wisdom of Our Elders

Sometimes permaculture would challenge traditional methods. But Charlie has talked with a lot of older farmers. “They all have a set of ethics. They all have ethical aims to be the best farmer you can. Or to produce the best produce or the best soil… It involves ethical decisions on an ongoing basis. So you’re evaluating whether you use one weed method of removal or another. Or whether you even leave the weeds or not. Whether you employ certain labour. Or whether people can walk through your land. If it’s private or not. There is a constant set of ethical evaluations

adapt card game

ADAPT Card Game for Design

Charlie and Bridget O’Brien are keen for permaculture to be applied to everything. In fact, that’s how Bridget came up with the adapt game. It is now available and for sale. It is permaculture design boiled down to a design process. Adapt helps adapt without being narcissistic and selfish. “We’re doing things as a collective. And we’re doing things in service. We’re asking the question ‘what are we in service of? we’re in the service of the planet or really important causes”. To be ethical, creative and positive.

We can either live life through design
or through default.

Charlie Brennan

Life presents us with values. And we adopt these. Often we’re “scared to change from them. We live by not designing anything. Some are scared to design things. Also, what a lot of people do is design by impulse. They say !#$% it: ‘I’m doing my own thing now. And they make choices which are impulsive.

Our Adapt game is a holistic systemic approach to the design. It supports and encourages you to explore other options. It asks you to answer some difficult questions. Because a card will come up and say ‘what are the ethics of this? Or, how are you going to put this into action?

We don’t always like to go to the difficult places in designing approaches. Yet the difficult places are also often the fertile places. And so, by the end of a round of Adapt, you’ll come up with a much more involved plan. You will be putting your dream or desire or need into action.”

Live by design. Learn more with us.