Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

This content was published: August 13, 2018. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

Gain a Refreshing Perspective with Permaculture

PCC Community Ed

Unrecognizable senior man with his grandaughter planting a seedling on allotment. Man and a small girl gardening.The term “permaculture” was coined in the late 1970s and originally referred to “permanent agriculture” but was later expanded to acknowledge the social aspects of sustainable living. Simply put, permaculture refers to a design system inspired by nature that embraces a thoughtful and ethical approach to, among other things, farming and architecture.

PCC offers a series of classes that will have you designing your garden and harvesting your own sustainably grown produce in no time. But first, a brief introduction.

Let’s Get Into The Weeds
The notion of permaculture is rooted in working with nature instead of against it. It involves ecological design and engineering, water resource management, sustainable architecture, and is based on, as one of the movement’s founders put it, “thoughtful observation rather than… thoughtless labor.”

While permaculture can be a rewarding hobby that also helps the planet, puts food on your table, and even improves the look of your home, it goes beyond just gardening. Permaculture has begun to influence our personal relationships, as well as our communities, and can be observed in everything from ride sharing to social activism. The following is a list of common principles, attributed to one of the early founders of the movement, David Holmgren.

The 12 Principles of Permaculture

  1. Observe and interact. Taking the time to engage with nature can help us develop design solutions that suit our own particular situation.
  2. Catch and store energy. The idea here is the same as that of the old saying “make hay while the sun shines.” Use or collect resources when they are available, such as rainwater.
  3. Obtain a yield. Ensure that the work you are doing is returning something useful. If you’re not getting a return, it’s unlikely you’ll want to continue the work.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback. Another old saying is “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children unto the seventh generation.” It’s a good reminder that what we do today may have a negative effect long into the future.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services. Make good use of what is available in nature to minimize reliance on non-renewable resources and reduce consumption.
  6. Produce no waste. Recycle, reuse, and repurpose. Times of abundance usually don’t last, and if you waste resources now, it may cause hardship in the future.
  7. Design from patterns to details. Look for patterns in nature and adapt your designs to those patterns, instead of the other way around.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate. Remember that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Design systems with components that work together and support each other.
  9. Use small and slow solutions. Start small and plan for growth that is slow, steady, and sustainable.
  10. Use and value diversity. The proverb “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” reminds us that diversity helps guard against threats and natural variations in the environment.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal. Just because “we’ve always done it this way” does not mean it’s the best way. Look for the way things interact and build on those relationships.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change. Change is inevitable. But by carefully observing the environment, we can intervene at the right time to have a positive impact.

Changing Your Perspective, Your Community, and the World!
Understanding and embracing the principles of permaculture can help you change the way you look at your life, as well as how you see both the local and global community. Those benefits include:

  • Building skills and resilience, both on a personal and a community level.
  • Reducing your consumption and becoming a responsible, ethical producer.
  • Empowering you and your community to express creativity.
  • Improving the aesthetics of your home.

While it can be difficult to nail down a precise definition for permaculture, it is, at its core, a holistic way of living in harmony with nature. PCC Community Ed offers a number of courses to help you get started and help you gain a new perspective on both yourself and the world around you.