Permaculture Principles

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Permaculture Principles

Permaculture principles are brief statements or slogans that can be remembered as a checklist when considering the inevitably complex options for design and evolution of ecological support systems.  These principles are seen as universal, although the methods that express them will vary greatly according to place and situation.  These principles are also applicable to our personal, economic, social and political reorganisation, as illustrated in the Permaculture Flower, although the range of strategies and techniques which reflect the principle in each domain is still evolving.

– David Holmgren, Essence of Permaculture, 2015

David Holmgren has organised the diversity of permaculture thinking into 12 Design Principles.  Each principle is a positive action statement with an associated icon (graphical reminder) and is linked to a traditional proverb.

He has generously made these freely available under a creative commons licence and this poster is free to copy, distribute and transmit for non-commercial purposes, but must not be altered.

Download David Holmgren’s Ethics and Design Principles Poster here.

Ethics and Design Principles Poster

Principle 1—Observe and Interact

Proverb: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.

Principle 2—Catch and Store Energy

Proverb: Make hay while the sun shines.

By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.

Principle 3—Obtain a Yield

Proverb: You can’t work on an empty stomach.

Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.

Principle 4—Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

Proverb: The sins of the fathers are visited on the children unto the seventh generation.

We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.

Principle 5—Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

Proverb: Let nature take it’s course.

Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources.

Principle 6—Produce No Waste

Proverb: Waste not, want not.          A stitch in time saves nine.

By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.

Principle 7—Design from Patterns to Details

Proverb: Can’t see the forest for the trees.

By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.

Principle 8—Integrate Rather than Segregate

Proverb: Many hands make light work.

By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.

Principle 9—Use Small and Slow Solutions

Proverb: The bigger they are the harder they fall.        Slow and steady wins the race.

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.

Principle 10—Use and Value Diversity

Proverb: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

Principle 11—Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Proverb: Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well-beaten path.

The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

Principle 12—Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Proverb: Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

Permaculture design principles can never be a substitute for relevant practical experience and technical knowledge.  However, they may provide a framework for continuous generation and evaluation of the site and situation specific solutions necessary to move beyond the limited successes of sustainable development to a reunion of culture and nature.

– David Holmgren, Essence of Permaculture, 2015