Monday, January 30, 2012

Each year, I attempt to gain a new skill or certification, so for this year I recently began a permaculture design certification (PDC) course through the Permaculture Guild in Clearwater, Florida. My passion has always been related to sustainable living and I am fortunate to have a career that is directly related to that passion. As I sat in my first class last weekend, I was amazed how someone so involved with and interested in sustainability could know so little about this amazing solution. It became clear to me rather quickly that permaculture hits on all issues such as energy, water, waste, land use, community, food production, and transportation (food related transportation and food miles), human health, and more.

Permaculture means permanent agriculture or permanent culture. It is the science and art of designing systems to be regenerative, not just sustainable. Sustainable is not necessarily all that great. Since we as a species are involved with so many degenerative activities, we need to become dedicated to regenerative efforts. Designing permaculture gardens or food forests goes beyond organic which only requires that no chemicals such as fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides are used. Organic farming can still be a water intensive operation of row crops. Permaculture design integrates primarily edible plants that serve many different purposes such as nitrogen fixation that removes the need for fertilizer, plants that attract the right type of insects and repel the unwanted ones. The main point is to have a vertically stacked, multipurpose, and biodiverse “forest” of food that is stable within a short time meaning no water (besides rainfall), or chemicals need to be brought into the system. Similarly, no energy, water or waste should leave the system, meaning composting and rain harvesting are essential. In an established forest (about 3 years), a general rule of thumb is that if you are spending more than 3 days in your garden, something is wrong. That time is usually spent harvesting your yield.

With the average food in the grocery store traveling 1,500 miles, by the time it reaches your plate it is full of harmful chemicals and most of its nutrients and biological enzymes dead. With permaculture, communities can become self sufficient and produce many other benefits:
  • ·         food security
  • ·         chemical use
  • ·         energy production through
  • ·         removal of organic waste from the waste stream
  • ·         energy production from anaerobic digestion
  • ·         hot water production from compost heat
  • ·         rebuilding of soil

These are just to name a few. The best part is this solution is scalable, applicable to any environment or location, and can be part of other operations such as aquaculture, energy generation, and hot water production. Although there is too much to write about in this one blog, I encourage everyone to look beyond xeriscaping and integrate even simple parts of permaculture into your life, even if it is just beginning to compost properly or beginning a worm bin! 

Resham Shirsat
Sustainability Manager, EcoAsset Solutions

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