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Use Small and Slow Solutions

Use Small and Slow Solutions

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes. One can easily argue that large and fast solutions are sometimes needed. Emergencies happen, and we should contemplate appropriate responses within context. It’s also important to note that “small” and “slow” are relative terms, and we should consider everything in scale. Sometimes, starting too small can inhibit growth, impact, and success. However, speaking from my own life experiences, I can see no shortage of times when I’ve invested time, energy, or money to make something happen all at once, just to find that I got ahead of myself and ended up wasting resources to some degree. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. The wisdom here is a discipline that some of us would do well to write on our walls. It’s so easy to get excited and jump into a big project or solution.   One Step At a Time However, it’s often more valuable to take advantage...

Integrate Rather Than Segregate

Integrate Rather Than Segregate

 “By putting the right  things in the right place, relationships develop  between those things, and they  work  together to support each other.”  One  of my favorite ways  to apply  this principle is in “stacking functions.” Stacking functions is an effort to make sure that each of the elements in a design performs multiple functions, and that more than one element support each vital function. It’s the efficiency builder. When we’re about to make any effort or learn a new skill, it is good to ask, How many different benefits will this provide? How many systems will this support? If I did it differently or elsewhere, would it save time or effort later? Thinking this way opens the door to a multitude of creative options that might be overlooked by using a default or out-of-context solution. Integration allows complementary qualities to support each other.   Why Do People Segregate? So, if the integration of ideas and elements is such a great idea,  why do we tend to segregate so...

Design from Patterns to Details

Design from Patterns to Details

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.   This Principle is where we apply what we’ve learned from our observations and interactions into our systems’ designs. By designing our systems based on the patterns in our environment, we can save a tremendous amount of time and energy. We can observe these patterns in the arc of the sun, with the tides in different seasons, by designing our personal routines around our children's school schedule, or when we adapt our company's business model to leverage our team’s strengths.   How to Design from Natural Patterns What are each individual’s natural patterns, and how can you best work with them? How can we widen our perspective, expand our understanding of the details, and look for patterns that invite creativity? Simply taking the time to design is another inherent element of wisdom in this Principle. A bold idea can turn into a...

Produce No Waste

Produce No Waste

By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.   This Principle continues the practices of using renewable resources and further closes the loop. As our consumption patterns change and we adopt more efficient business practices, we evaluate what remains and go deeper. The more that we practice thinking this way, the more we can find usefulness in what we once considered waste. Current research shows that among the 251 million tons that Americans throw into the landfill,  besides the 20% food scraps that we could compost instead, our landfills are filled with nearly 50% of paper waste products. Also, much of what is in a modern landfill is plastic bags.  It is estimated the US uses 380  single-use plastic bags per year,  and there are as many as 1 trillion used annually across the globe. By reducing our waste, reusing, or sharing what we can, composting, recycling, and stuffing what’s left into bottle bricks, we can eliminate a...

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services:

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services:

Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources. The natural world creates ongoing regenerative processes essential for the survival of the earth and its inhabitants. Worms aerate the soil, clovers & legumes provide nitrogen through their roots, and the leaves, seeds & fruits falling from trees (when left to decompose) provide nutrients for new life (including those worms and clovers). Early humans existed for hundreds of thousands of years, mimicking these naturally cyclical tendencies and living in-kind. We Are Part of the Problem Today, the logic of this Principle is disregarded. At some point, humans started using less-evolved methods for short-term gain. The information age is finally showing us, en masse, the devastation wrought by the shortsighted ambitions of the industrial age. In a short time, humans have managed to exhaust a stunning percentage of the planet’s resources and diversity of...

Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Self-regulation, or self-control, empowers us to be more accountable and effective human beings. It can also lead to greater efficiency in business. Feedback is essential for personal and professional growth. By understanding the effects of our actions, we can make better decisions. This Principle encourages systems to be self-regulating and continually accept feedback so the system can be maximized for efficiency and abundance. The Benefits of Self-Regulation and Feedback Acceptance Individuals or businesses that cannot take feedback and self-regulate leave themselves open to struggle and stagnation. In contrast, promoting these elements can reduce stress, increase efficiency, create healthier home/work conditions, and improve relationships. Tips for Implementing Self-Regulation & Encouraging Feedback Ways in which we might encourage feedback and apply  self-regulation include: ...

Obtain a Yield

Obtain a Yield

"Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing." There are many different types of yield that can be collected from the fruits of our efforts. Whether it’s turning last year’s composted kitchen scraps into this year’s garden beds, enjoying your youth and the health of your family while you have it, or choosing to plant fruit trees instead of ornamentals at the office, it’s important to design systems around you to best leverage your efforts. Businesses naturally think about this principle when planning their investments and assessing cash flow.   Don't Get it Wrong However, when practices are used that are exploitative, distorting, and see profit as the sole focus, obtaining a yield in this context is out of balance. Beyond money, other types of value can be created as well. Let’s take a look at what those might be.   Cultivate increasingly beneficial relationships and a more enriching home or workplace, by paying compliments or...

Catch and Store Energy

Catch and Store Energy

“By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.” Let’s start with a note about self-care. My friends, human potential is more powerful than we can comprehend. The computing power of our brains and our ability to increase their abilities with practice is incredible. Our bodies’ innate ability to heal, detoxify, and regenerate is our single greatest asset in this life. Our bodies and minds are organic processes of perpetual energy in motion, and yet we must remember not to take that for granted (at least not for too long.)     Don't Lose Your Greatest Assets By maintaining a balanced diet, attitude, and lifestyle, we can maximize the energy that our bodies are generating every day. Failure to maintain the body and mind with healthy daily habits and mindsets is the surest way to squander and lose our greatest assets. So, how do we optimize our lifestyles with this Principle? Do whatever it takes to get excited about eating a more...

Observe and Interact

Observe and Interact

The following Principles are those first identified and defined by David Holmgren in his book “Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability.” My own adaptation follows each as to how I feel these Principles may be applied to our lives and business practices. Bill Mollison has offered another list of design principles that I’ve interwoven into these for the purpose of keeping this essay succinct. The exciting thing about these principles is that they are tools that we can use to think deeper into any aspect of our life or business. Contemplation of these Principles can lead one to discover new and exciting options for living a more sustainable life, more efficient business, and a more integral contribution to the community and humanity’s chances for survival.   How These Principles Work “By taking the time to engage with nature, we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.” Making solution-based decisions, of any sort, requires that we can first...

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Don’t Envy The Change Makers  – Be One!

Don’t Envy The Change Makers – Be One!

I’ve laid out a long list of options for how one might choose to apply the Permaculture Principles to their home life, relationships, business, and lifestyle.  You may very well be practicing some of these things, already. Congratulations! The Principles, themselves,...

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