Technologies can be classified as Soft or Hard. Most technologies sit within the range between these two extremes. Knowing the difference helps us choose a technology to do a task with the least environmental cost.
Basically, Soft technologies are those handled by people. Whereas, Hard technologies don’t need people to watch over them.
“We use hard technologies to make things easier and faster, by reducing the number of choices for users. Hard technologies are brittle and stifle creativity. They prevent us from doing things and that is why we use them. They are complete. Hard technologies act as filters – they structure our spaces and limit what we can do.” Jenny Mackness
Elaborating on technologies
A fire pit is a soft technology because requires a skilled operator to start it and keep it going. However, a wood-fired oven is a slightly ‘harder’ technology because some of the physical effort is reduced by the addition of walls and a chimney. Eventually, the electric heater was developed. It required less effort and provided speed. This is how the technology of heating became ‘Hardened’.
Very Hard technologies don’t need humans to keep them in operation. A solar passive house is the ultimate Hard technology – it functions without an operator.
Soft and Pliable Technologies
Soft technologies are flexible and empower creativity. The user has to plan and orchestrate processes. This requires skill and creativity. Soft technologies may appear to be simple but they require time, skills and observation to function.
Mixed technologies can be an intelligent conversion or enhancement of technologies. The bicycle is the perfect mixed technology. It is the most efficient form of transport known to man. A bicycle requires human energy, skill and observation to operate it. And so we Segway to the Motor car. The common car is a mixed technology. The self-powered, self-driving car will be a hard type of technology.
Hard Technology Improves Peasantry lifestyle
An example of a soft technology is a house that constantly needs cleaning. Consequently, hard technology deals with inevitable issues such as waste management. One example is the The flush toilet. This is a hard technology, requiring little handling to do a vital job. A simple pit-style of toilet (the old hole in the ground) is a hard technology whereas a good composting toilet is an evolved mixed technology.
In a simple chicken house, the poop builds up. The chicken in the wild would not tolerate this, it would move house and allow nature to recycle the waste. The domesticated-chicken-owner is constantly cleaning up after them.
Imagine a chicken house design that is self-cleaning. The Chicken-Worm-Tower is a mix of simple animal housing technology with good flow-management strategies (the waste from the upper level becomes food for the lower levels).
Softening Up The Hard Technologies
Traditionally, a building is a hard technology however, skills can be developed to soften any negative effects of a building. With observation and adaptations the building becomes a mixed technology. Adaptations develop and the user learns to drive the structure. These adaptations include simple tools like opening critical windows to allow breezes through. More adaptations include the use of heavy curtains to prevent air circulation and heat loss. In more extreme cases the user reduces heat-loss by applying insulating materials and plugging drafts.
Does a Technology have to cost the Earth?
Choosing a technology deserves a little bit of environmental analysis beyond the immediate financial cost.
What is the embedded energy in the product?
How long will it last?
is it able to adapt with my needs?
How is it repaired?
What waste is generated?
Is it easy to dis-assemble and recycle?
Hard and Soft Technology of the Permaculture Site
A young Permaculture site is a soft technology. It requires vision, care, skill and training. The user needs to be flexible and creative. As the site matures we see the space become a Harder technology. The mature forest is robust and requires less maintenance.
The hardened environmental system rewards us with food and improved habitat. Within the mature food-forest we will enjoy being creative and we have more resources to play with.
Our Christmas tree is now 10 years old and is slowly getting bigger! It is now over 2m tall. When it outgrows the doorway it will be allowed to reside in the garden. It is an indigenous Araucaria evergreen called a Bunya Bunya.
Bunya Bunya’s have massive (35kg) cones of edible nuts. We must be careful never to stand under a Bunya when it is in fruit. Bunyas are an ancient species, surviving over hundreds of millions of years. But very few of these proud ancestors were stuck in a pot and harassed by summer ornaments. Our Christmas tree has character. The young leaves are bright green and there is a positive glow about the tree. We must forgive this tree for having bent branches due to the annual decorations and an imperfect trunk due to constant traffic on the balcony where it usually resides in the ‘off-season’.
Before you rush out to buy one of these trees in time for Christmas just 8 years later, be warned! There is a reason that this tree species is an ancient survivor. Beneath the good looks is resilience (it is heavy and strong) and great self-defense strategies (it’s pretty anit-social). Getting a Bunya Bunya to come indoors is a battle that needs armory and planning. Even after using thick clothes, eye protection and gloves, we bear the scars. A Bunya Bunya gives nasty scratches to anything that goes near it including possums, deer, birds and festive revelers. The plan is to bring the tree in when the days are dry. This makes it lighter to transport. We then let it have Christmas ‘drinks’ in moderation to avoid the risk of death by over-watering.
‘Tis The Season Of
There are workable alternatives to living in a sea of toxic plastic. This is the season of great consumer-power. Lets enjoy supporting farmers, restorers, artists and craft-makers who make the effort to rid our world of non-recyclables and invest in ethical gifts.
Value Biological Resources
A fundamental principle of Permaculture design is to use biological resources. An investment in renewable resources such as a living tree requires only a little maintenance. Like a fine wine, it gets better as it ages. Traditionally, most people would cut or buy a cut tree (you can use a branch), bring it in and then find a use for it after Christmas. Most people have to compost there tree somewhere.
Real Is Better
A real tree is a far better choice than a plastic tree. The plastic tree not only gets shabby with age, it is nearly impossible to recycle because it made of many different types of plastics and not made to be easily disassembled.
A simple native conifer or pine tree that is fragrant and not spiky would be an excellent investment. If you have patience and skill, invest in a rare indigenous tree. This will give you pride and revolutionise the legendary tradition of having a real Christmas Tree. If you want to a few sample, dig up a weedy pine sapling from beside the road. If you are feeling highly skilled and have no growing space, try a bonsai Christmas tree. Bonsai’s can live for hundreds of years.
Let’s start a fashion growing potted Christmas trees and if we succeed we can give the spares as a special future Christmas present.
A ‘Super-tree’ produces flammable nuts, has leaves that can burn wet, produces abundant fruit, supports a web of life, grows large enough to live in, provides timber that never rots, survives thousands of years, supports a wild-life of fungi underground, and holds steep slopes on mighty mountains. Many can regulate the temperature around them by moving liquids up and down the trunk, dropping leaves and expiring vapours to cool the air. Remarkably, some trees can communicate through their root systems for miles underground. Mature trees can even send warnings and protective chemicals out to younger trees.
10 Special Powers
Trees provide Fuel, Food, Oils, Forage, Structural, Conservation, Carbon sequestration, Soil managers, animal barriers, and Fungal & Microbial habitats.
Fuel trees provide a range of fuel options including solid fuel, flammable leaves, bark, oil or flammable ‘candle or diesel’ nuts.
You don’t always have chop a tree to get fuel. Solid fuel from trees sometimes falls naturally. The windfalls include flammable leaves, cones, nuts, fallen branches, harvested sap, and resin.
David Holmgren writes that solid fuels are the most useful energy resource globally. We can plan for their harvest, they are easy to cut, require little training to use, convert easily to energy, are hard to steal or vandalise, and renew themselves.
Eucalyptus leaves have the power to burn whilst wet. Even more amazing, diesel and petroleum trees have nuts that burn like candles. Meet the Brazilian tropical rainforest tree Copaifera langsdorffii commonly known as Capaiba (Tupi Indian word cupa-yba). It is several powers. This ‘diesel tree’ is also a soil-enhancing legume. The resin is tapped sustainably like maple trees. Another, Pittosporum resiniferum, provides a form of n-Heptane.
Overall, most trees produce woody material suitable for the generation of BioGas fuel. This means alternative wood-based fuel is available without killing trees. Simply coppice or pollard instead.
More than 80% of the world’s food species came from the rainforest. Fruits, nuts, tea, coffee, chocolate and alcohols such as cider come from the bounty of trees.
The permaculture food forest usually intercrops fruit and layers of nut trees. We use strong food trees to support vine crops and short-lived trees act as nurse trees to maturing species. Tall evergreen trees are positioned in the shaded corner of the orchard and often used as wind-breaks.
Herbal, medicinal, culinary and cosmetic oils come from trees. These include Eucalyptus, Pine, Olive, Avocado, Walnut, Pecan, Almond, Cashew, Macadamia, Frankincense and Myrrh and Neem. Teatree is a hard-working fungicide (ok, it’s a shrub but worthy of mention.) Coconuts are not really trees either but they are tall, fragrant, yummy and an excellent make-up remover.
Other tree oils such as Tungoil (Vernicia fordii) when mixed with the natural cleaner and thinner Limonene (oil of citrus fruit peels) is a beautiful floor polish and useful for coating and preserving woodwork.
Fodder is an excellent food for grazing animals. The art of fodder planting almost forgotten conventional farming. Many trees provide excellent, nutritious fodder for animals. Fodder from trees is available during dry years. Fodder trees can be grown as living fences,(applied at Avonstour) hedges or as shade trees in the corners of paddocks. The tree roots can extend deep into subsoil, mining minerals that grasses may not reach.
Cattle browse and shelter beside fodder trees. Their manure is happily filtered by the abundant layers of forest shrubbery and leaf litter beneath. Forage Examples include: Oak, Poplar, Acacia aneura (Mulga), Albizia Julibrissa (Leguminous, deciduous, fast growing, regenerates) Dodnaea viscosa (Hop bush).
Above all, fodder trees provide food, shade, windbreak, pollution filter and living fences. Forage Examples include Oak, Poplar, Acacia aneura (Mulga), Albizia Julibrissa (Leguminous, deciduous, fast growing, regenerates) and Dodnaea viscosa (Hop bush). Better still, plant a guild of native trees to support wildlife and local fungi.
5. Structural Trees and Timber
Many trees grew large enough to shelter a traveller. Plato wrote about trees in his homeland, Greece, that were too big to put his arms around. Few large trees remain there. Shipbuilding claimed most of the great trees of Plato’s era. But still today, trees war and poverty continue to destroy trees.
Throughout the eras, material from trees has provided us with complete houses (roof shingles, frames, and plastered wattle walls), canoes, ships, furniture, garden tools, the first cars, musical instruments, cricket bats, rainboots, clothing (silk, rayon, viscose) and much more.
6. Wildlife Habitat – Humanities Bank of Genetic Capital
The conservation of wildlife habitats makes good economic sense as well as ethical sense. Healthy forests as a bank of diverse genetic material. Most of the plants, insects have not yet named. Their potential lies undiscovered. Surviving forests require nothing from mankind except respect. They are a self-supporting bank of unknown resources.
Humanity may be able to create clean air, water, soil, and mine more nutrients. But we can’t recreate genetic material. If we did discover how to recreate genetic material, a lot of creativity, science and energy would need to be invested. It is cheaper to safe-guard the genetic material existing today.
7. Carbon Sequestration
Trees are the cheap. They work day and night aslong-term storage units soaking up excess carbon. They help mitigate or defer global warming and slow climate change. But recent research is showing that some trees are hitting their limit of absorption. This startling situation demonstrates we need more trees to combat the growing climate crisis.
Long-living trees are excellent guardians of carbon. Many trees live thousands of years (including olives) however, clonal colonies of trees have the potential to be immortal.
The oldest known clonal tree is Pando, an 80,000-year-old colony of Quaking Aspen. Unfortunately, the tree releases sequestered carbon when it dies. So, we need long-living self-replicating plants.
8. Soil Management
Trees hold the banks of steep slopes, trap centuries of silt, create their own rain and micro-climate. Trees have been shown to seed the clouds to help make rain. The process of soil enrichment can be accelerated with Huglekultur, Synergistic gardening, and Biochar.
Garden Mounds with Wood
Austrian, Sepp Holzer, pioneered Huglekultur for raised beds. The wood in the base of Huglekultur mounds holds moisture, builds fertility, adds height. This provides more surface area for intensive gardens growing vegetables and herbs. Similarly, Synergistic garden mounds, developed first by Emilia Hazslip, can also incorporate wood. Position mounds to harvest rainwater, deflect frost, create various microclimates, and slowly move the water through the system.
Soil Enrichment with Wood By-products
Biochar, formerly known as Terra preta, is low temperature-carbonized biomass commonly made trees. For thousands of years, it has been the lifeblood of native south-American intensive agriculture. They convert lumbar into a habitat for the accelerated growth of soil micro-organisms. Activated charcoal also sequesters carbon.
Biochar can be made as a by-product of heating the home. We make biochar in our fuel stove using a loose lidded container inside the firebox or by covering the flames with ash before going to bed. Ash from the fire is separated from the charcoal. We turn the charcoal into biochar by crushing it in a bag when cool then adding it to the compost toilet mass.
Ash is an excellent source of insulation material. Or it can provide valuable nutrients and pH modification to garden beds and poultry house floors.
9. Animal Barrier Systems
Hedges can be stronger, longer-lasting, and more durable than fences.
Nature is free and choatic. But not all hedges have to look messy. In fact, when the edges are neat, most people think the garden looks today. In truth, nature can work happily within tidy boundaries.
Some hedges can be trimmed to sit up off the ground to allow small creatures to pass underneath but block out larger animals, people, and cars.
Hedging in England is an art form, with quirky regional variations. In Dartmoor, the trunks of young trees are half-cut and pushed horizontally. Similarly, each sapling gets half-cut and tipped onto the previous sapling. In time, the side branches start to grow upright. This method makes a thick and durable fence providing habitat for wildlife such as insect-hungry birds.
10. Fungi and Microbes
Incubation converts tree sugars into energy.Paul Stamets shows how mushrooms can save the world by providing a usable energy source for domestic and commercial systems.
Permaculture is a design tool. The permaculture design principles can also be applied to the design of a small business. Here are some examples of applied Permaculture Principles. The principles used here are those taught by Bill Mollison (and some by David Holmgren).
1. Identify Your Elements
An element is a component of your system or business. Your list of elements may include: intellectual property, office, marketing, natural capital (such as water, fruit/nuts), presentation material such as boxes, jars, labels, product information, transport, time for delivery (especially for services), customer feedback processes. These elements are then analysed to determine their needs and all their potential functions, not just the functions we seek. We then use the principle of relative location to link them together to optimise efficiency.
2. Use Relative Location
Connect elements by their function and needs. Elements can be linked in a energy chain or network. Here’s how it could work in a simple system like an orchard:
An Orchard needs protection from fire, a good water supply. It also needs to be weeded and rotten fruit needs to be removed.
The processing shed can capture rain water which can be used by the fruit processing system then fed to the geese, then it could go to the orchard if we locate the shed uphill from the orchard and use gravity as part of the water management.
Geese can weed, mow the fire break, eat rotting fruit and provide droppings as a natural fertilizer.
Through the principle of relative location we link the shed, the orchard and the geese (a biological resource). Some elements are linked more closely ie. Workers need education and procedures. Procedures need feedback from workers.
Position elements of business so that there is minimal transport between them.
Use natural forces where possible to work for you. (Eg. Information transferred by email, mail or fax so workers don’t have to travel far to work.
Use local inputs. Physical elements such as manure can be collected, filtered and processed nearby, are easily relocated and you can determine manageable sizes (in the same way bee-farmers move their hives).
Sunlight can warm the wall of a processing unit – be aware and determine if this is helpful or increasing your refrigeration costs.
Solar power can be used to run computer monitor systems.
Your office can be mobile and paperless.
We can bring the information to the customer in a variety of ways.
Waste can be valued. It can be integrated into the system, process and sold. ie. waste water can also act as fire-prevention by being positioned in a useful location near a main path and up high where it can be distributed easily needed.
3. Enable Multiple Functions
Each Element in the design should be used and positioned to perform a range of functions.
Marketing is performed in a variety of ways, through different media, and to different types of customers.
Services and Products are modular and durable. Customers can tailor their purchase or use by purchasing the components they want, expand or reduce interconnecting parts and purchase as and when they want it.
Transport can be shared with other suppliers, businesses or projects.
Tools and equipment can be shared with other businesses. Sharing includes hiring.
Equipment and physical resources will be recycled or reused as much as possible.
Multiple elements for each function
The variety of skills can satisfy other functions either for other elements or for other like-minded businesses (for example: your efforts to promote sustainability will help other similar organisations). Therefore, you can band together and form a co-op or just a friendly relationship with other businesses.
A business function is satisfied with more than one element: eg. Other businesses refer customers to yours because your marketing has been general as well as specific and has helped build general interest in sustainability.
Use a range of inputs ie. herbs or fruit, especially seasonal and local ones, to create the products whilst maintaining the quality expected by your customers.
Rely on more than one source for your supplies. Ie. water, produce or power collection needs various methods to create resilience during dry periods. Rainwater tanks, condensation traps, in-ground collection such as swales and rain pits. Similarly, use a wide range of suppliers or types of inputs to build resilience when a supplier is suddenly unable to meet your needs.
Use a combination of security measures such as dogs, geese, friends with neighbours, fencing, hedges and housing.
Use variety of pest deterrents such as animals (cats or ratting dogs) indoors in warehouses to deter rats, ultra-sonic beams to scare away rodents, as well as rodent-proof construction of shed walls, floors and doors. Steel wool is eventually biodegradable and is an excellent rat-hole plugging material. Unfortunately a lot of degradable materials and techniques have been abandoned and forgotten in the Plastics era.
Use a combination of hazard prevention measures such as a building a culture of care, clear signals, clean workplace, good relations with workers.
Use different means of support. Ie for fences we can use metal stakes interspersed with wooden poles made from woody weeds. When a farmer plants living fences or hedges as well as wire fencing, she is creating a durable, long-term security system. Hedges can last hundreds of years. She could use the wire fence in the short-term (up to 20 years) and be confident that the hedge will only require low-tech (but specialised crafting) for good maintainance.
Pumps can be solar-powered with a back-up facility such as a windmill, hand pump or ethanol-powered generator. Etc.
4. Stress-Free Yield
By giving each element several functions we accept that not all the functions can be performed all the time.
The workers can choose to from a variety of tasks unless there is a strict time frame, then there should be a rotation system so they don’t get bored or injuries from repetitive work (such as picking fruit, or bending over to pick salads).
Listen to ideas of workers, suppliers and customers to improve the system.
Production may be lower than in forced conditions but the sum of all the functions is greater (ideas, harvest collected, respect and observation of trees).
A reduction of stress on each element in the business, if they are all working for the good of the business, will result in the sum of efforts will be greater. Every worker and component will run efficiently and have greater productivity.
Safety is a very important consideration, without safety in the workplace; the cost can outweigh all profits over the years of the business.
Early in the implementation of our permaculture enterprise we aimed for stress-free yield because we knew our work was pioneering, and vulnerable to stress. We didn’t borrow money for the business because this would have enforced a level of profitability that would be stressful. We didn’t seek government funding because the project would have to meet the government expectations rather than the real customer needs.
Small and Slow Solutions
A small business can be a pilot for a larger company or you may discover that you are happy staying small.
Some services and products can be expanded or contracted according to market demand.
Obtain a Yield
Ensure that your short-term efforts have some immediate rewards but keep some profit for long-term goals ie improved software and documentation methods)
refine work procedures (homework answering, student management),
Re-evaluated your measures of success
sharing surpluses once the business is functioning well by providing scholarships, support or donations to others in need.
5. Energy Efficiency
Use existing physical, social and biological capital to maximum energy potential: share resources such as cars, support local transport, build structures that can work to shelter the garden as well as store heat for night-time, require minimal energy in maintenance, and are durable. Avoid abandoning ideas, technology, machinery or computers that are not competitive without first examining ways to update/expand and increase their efficiency. Many users do not use their equipment to full potential, they are still learning the potential of the current one while considering a new model.
Some offices can be made more efficient by natural resources such as natural lighting, solar or sun-heating, coupling the room with a greenhouse window or room. Remember that customers will expect your office to be a working model of sustainability. Ideally it should not look expensive but should be simple, comfortable, accessible, well-lit, full of natural fibres and a view of a garden.
6. Biological Resources
Maximise the use of biological and physical materials.
Consider the full life of the product.
Search for biodegradable alternatives that can be used as mulch or compost at the end of their first use. Eg. A wide-spreading tree is a more efficient use of resources for a shade house than one made of wood and nails. In the promenade at Notre Dame Paris, the trees form a durable, seasonally adjusting, air filtering shade. In the narrow streets of El Bosque in Spain, citrus trees are the posts to guide to cars, their trunks are painted white and flowers grow at the base. Consider only biodegradable packaging and insulation such as popped-corn for fragile packages instead of plastic pieces.
A clever small business example is GroCycle in Totnes, UK where the business cut the processing cost of growing mushrooms by using an abundant pre-processed waste – coffee grinds.
7. Energy Flow
Design to harvest and use natural energy flows E.g. Wind, wave solar or running water. Animals can be guided into narrow paths that serve to compact and stabilise slopes on contour. Water can be used to maintain an edge. Gravity can aid harvest machinery by collecting fruits from the top of the hill and roll the machinery downhill as the loader fills with fruit and becomes heavier. We can position collection points, processing equipment and export sheds with a road out at the bottom of the hill. This can help minimise the need for imported energy inputs.
Reduce costs of storage of products or equipment by keeping the product fresh and utilizing the just-in-time processing concept. We can keep the order process prompt and maintain a closer contact with our customers.
Let nature do her work
In a Business design we can use natural energy as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to tell a customer that nature can offer a similar service. Consider the Osteopath that recognised that the customer needed to walk to help heal their back. The customer who takes this simple advice may no longer be a regular customer but will refer other.
On a chicken farm we can set up systems where the chickens can feed themselves.
On a Maron or Yabbie farm we can create ideal conditions that support natural breeding rather than engage in expensive artificial breeding systems.
Silk worms can be housed close to or in the trees if we can devise protective shelters.
Nuts may be able to harvested more easily during particular climatic conditions.
Allow crops to self seed or allow crop residues to act as nurse for a different crop.
8. Natural Succession
Imitate nature in your plans to help a system evolve to meet your needs.
For commercial crops investigate systems similar to Fukuoka. Eg: You could allow the grasses to become seeded with herbs and flat ‘weeds’, grow tall grasses and pioneer species that act as green manure (Oats, Wheat, Sorghum) to protect young climax species (eg. fruit trees) from frost and insect attack.
A social example would be to glean the wisdom of our elders (canopy and support species)
Be active in social or professional guilds (companions and guild people) and seek a niche for our talents (a place in a complex society)
Allow time to explore growth opportunities as they appear (as in the forest when the canopy opens and new light appears).
9. Value Bio-Diversity
A farm would aim to include a variety of species of food plants, pollinators, animals and workers. This principle works in Business when we value a diverse range of supplies, techniques and technologies.
Diversity in nature builds resilience and resistance to pest attack. It also lets us find which variety works well in our own particular climate and micro-climates.
There are some government subsidies, customer value (including organic and Forestry certification systems) and other Integrated Pest Management rewards for farmers who strive to preserve. These are tangible economic rewards for the active efforts of businesses to preserve and promote diversity in natural systems.
Diversity creates opportunity for initiatives and inventions.
Explore a range of biological solutions to complement and eventually replace the conventional.
This concept aims to maximise the productivity of a system. In the same way a food forest can have numerous layers. A business can have many layers and zones:
Family and friends provide support and promotion in personal circles
Associations, educational bodies and accreditation bodies provide support and quality maintainance
Like-minded businesses provide branches of promotion
Customer Relationships – we can use diverse channels for promotion and feedback. Observe and accept feedback as a chance to connect better with your customers.
11. Appropriate Technology
Optimise the use of a technology by making it serve more than one need, have it work to full potential without overload. ie. David Homgren says “the easiest way to double efficiency of a car is to take an additional passenger.”
Favour simple and effective technologies. Consider delivery and running costs, it is efficient, prompt and reliable. Here is a comparison chart to help choose the best-fit in efficient technologies.
Favour natural fibres and avoid destructive materials such as plastics or inefficient fuel-dependent delivery.
Information and Observation replaces Energy
Smaller, more intensive, localised systems can be more productive and adaptable. They can take advantage of reduced costs/waste involved for transporting a product to the consumer.
Specialised products and services develop by information and observation. The natural succession or staging plan can conclude with the sharing of the business experience or intellectual property with franchisees, senior employees, students or prospective business purchaser.
Ensure your business is well equipped with tax and legal information, for example if you are not aware of the tax costs upon sale of the land or business, then the overall profit figures may be greatly altered. If you have to pay more tax in capital gains than you have earned as a business based on the family land, then the net result is not worth the effort. On the other hand there may be a wide range of tax advantages. Information is critical in business.
Aim for optimum production with minimum intervention. This is how new farming techniques such as SRI have evolved.
Work with the natural and social context. Fit the design into its surroundings. Look at the wider social environment as a key to what will work. At the steps of parliament house, Berlin (The Reistag), there is a huge ‘lawn’ area that is designed to withstand wet conditions and high pedestrian traffic. It works with nature and provides for the needs of the people. Another example can be seen when planting expensive crops in poor regions. These require more human intervention (in the form of security). Whereas a design that considers the social environment involves the community; provides work; and shares the profits with that community. It also benefits from pride, protection and support from that community.
In nature: consideration of context can mean the choice of mixed species suited to the sites natural advantages. E.g. water collection, condensation trapping, shelter, sediment as occurs at an oasis. We can also see what to avoid. E.g. if the design is within an area of natural fragility we would avoid planting trees whose seed are carried by birds or wind.
The Web of Small Business:
From the initial source (sun, rain, wind, and animals) energy is diverted, used, released again and transferred from one element to another. Energy connects the elements. Their common use of energy forms the web of relationships.
From the source to the sink (the place where the energy leaves the system):
Energy stores increases
Organisational complexity increases (but there are many new management tools to help to enable better self- determination and team work between workers.)
A business can be truly sustainable and ethical when it is resilient, responsive and responsible. This is a hard conversion in the short-term, especially when competitors are cutting costs by using economic slaves and polluting the environment. However, being ethical and environmentally responsible facilitates long term market harmony and prosperity.
In-process waste recycling and choosing natural energies can reduce costs.
Environmental responsibility is a means of value adding to a product.
There are government funds and other avenues of support and some economic incentives for acts of conservation and protection.
When a business does not behave ethically it eventually faces market disapproval and risks failure through legal processes. Ethical is good. Many businesses have had to face huge legal costs of unethical, economic or environmentally damaging acts in recent years.
Innovative business that work with nature are complex and may require patience and development of specialist skills and knowledge.
You can team up with other business. Many businesses have been successful in forming partnerships that provide a hub for small, diverse and complimentary projects. Ie. The Eden Project provides a space for like-minded businesses to work with, Mark Shepard of New Forest Farm supports small business projects that use his large living capital.
Small businesses without debt have a better opportunity to grow according to the proprietor’s wishes.
There is growing network of environmental organisations and mentors to support ethical growers, producers and service operators.
If you are running an ethical or permaculture small business why not get your credentials? We run an online Permaculture Design Course that will help you evaluate and put permaculture principals into your life and all your projects.