Tag Archives: sharing

Permaculture For Children

Little Lives Matter

Children have the opportunity to make a cultural shift. When a young person discovers new foods, they set patterns of eating and behaviour that will shape the way their culture relates to the land and to native foods. Here is a moment for humanity to make a lasting difference. Any dependency on imported foods can be surpassed. The young family can build a rich understanding and respect for the natural world.

“Perhaps there is no greater thing we can do for our children than to ensure they receive their birthright, a love and understanding of nature and a knowledge of their place in it.” Janet Millington

Children – Nature and Nurture

little-girl-readingBy working with nature and not against her, the potential is greater.  For example: one of Australia’s first huge mining towns, Broken Hill, has now become one of the biggest solar generation towns. All it took was an attitude shift.

Young people have heaps of attitude! We can work with their inventive nature as well as nurturing their love of nature. At the recent Illawarra Greenflicks event, we gave out our permaculture fortune tellers to get young people thinking positive about the things that they can do for a better future.

Enriching Programs For Children

There are some great programs for young people to nurture their sense of connection to nature.

Permaculture paper fortune teller
Our Permaculture ‘fortune teller’
  • The Crossing puts sustainability into action for young people to protect and enhance the natural environment. We do this by involving young people in permaculture, landcare and habitat survey on journeys with us.  These journeys can include hiking, canoeing and mountain biking.
  • Pioneering Outdoor Classrooms: CAROLYN NUTTALL and JANET MILLINGTON wrote their book to promote connecting with nature in young school children. “Permaculture is about all aspects of human interaction with the environment. For many reasons, including the reduction of open space and the issues relating to the safety of children and the advances in computers, those afternoons of running free with nature have all but ceased for most children today.”
  • Roman Shapla, a graduate of ours has been developing a Children’s Permaculture Design Course. Anything that is taught to adults can be introduced to children. We just need to allow more time and flexibility in the delivery.
  • Another graduate of ours helped build a highly school permaculture garden in an industrial heartland, Cringilla Primary School has engaged, empowered, informed and active green children.

Start Small and Be Effective

Rose and the big leaf
Big leaf umbrella

One of the permaculture principles taught by Bill Mollison is to start small and be successful. This gives positive feedback, experience and energy to reach for more.  Young people yearn for a better environment. The first steps are to:

  1.  build awareness of their foot-print,
  2.  give young people easy ways to reduce their impact
  3.  give them ways to build a better futureMore familes enjoying nature, children playing outdoors, using garden classrooms, growing food in the cities, making connections

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Transport: Driving Us Further Apart

The Tyranny of Distance

earth_sun_day_fireyThe world population grows every second.  As the density increases each of us gets physically closer to one another.  Very few of us remain are truly remote.  And yet, most of us are more reliant than ever on transport for work, goods, services, education, vacations and relationships.

Why do we travel more and travel further? Is eco-transport the solution or will expectations simply match capacity to travel. Can we change this culture of transport to cut the mileage and build true sustainability?

On Being Distant

chinese-pedlar-ming-dynasty-chicago-museum_2The more wealth a person accumulates, the more distant they become. They need more storage and display space. This bigger wealthy living space creates their physical separation from society. But this is not the only force driving the wealthy apart. The huge growth in sales for solo entertainment and exercise gadgets adds to the pressure for space.  Self-driving cars will simply encourage us to travel further and longer.  Wealthy consumers have a reducing need to share. Perhaps they will enjoy the lower risk of catching germs in public spaces and a reduced potential to be the target of any uncomfortable village gossip. But there is a serious downside to this excess.

In this hedonistic space no-one can hear you scream.

fostering a love of animals helps children develop empathy and understanding of nature.

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. .. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison ..We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. Albert Einstein, 1954

Future of Eco-Transport

Transport in the future will be more efficient not just because fuel may become more expensive but because the pollutants from each vehicle need to be cooler. Automobiles are a major contributor to climate change. So, each automobile needs to be cleaner and used more wisely. The average car sits idle, quietly depreciating, 92 percent of the time.

bikeBicycles are the most efficient form of transport and it is great how major cities like Copenhagen and London have built bicycle superhighways. Of course, public transport is easier for most commuters and freight companies. Rail is especially good for long distances. A lot of governments have been forging new public transit technologies. Shipping is the most efficient means of transporting goods and cruise ships are enjoying an era of renewal for long distance travel. Cars rank very low in transport efficiency.

Cars of the future will need to be:

  • car of futureModular. We could make cars as small as necessary and able to linked to one another as required.
  • Fully Biodegradable. Steel is biodegradable and some new plastics can be made out of very tough natural materials.
  • Durable
  • Able to fixed easily. When items are able to be fixed simply, they have a far greater chance of durability. If you break down in a rare vehicle, be prepared to wait longer for someone to know how to fix it and have the parts.
  • Classic and functional yet beautiful in design. Beauty enables a vehicle to be treasured much longer than its peak performance period.
  • Self-analysing and self-repairing.  Living modes of transport such as horses are self-repairing if well maintained.

Permaculture is Not Idyllic Country Living

The ideal permaculture home does not sit in isolation. When we are sharing and giving to family, to neighbours, to the community, to our society, we build a more peaceful world.

Culture Shift To Reduce Transport Needs

There are three ways to modify our behaviour to reduce our need to travel.
1. Be Proud – celebrate local foods and services 2. Be Creative 3. Share

1. Celebrate Local Production

pride

Local produce fits the climate so it usually has less chemical inputs, is more nutritious because it is fresher (has not been transported far) and supports local workers.

2. Creative and Inventive

Being creative means we find ways to solve the problem that have local resources. It can be as simple as finding an alternative utensil for a task rather than buying another tool imported from a foreign country.

3. Sharing

Permaculture leader, David Holmgren says: sharing a ride will double your efficiency, instantly. When we share more, we need less storage space and get better neighbours. If that’s not possible ask yourself: why live in the kind of area that people don’t appreciate sharing?

Sharing can be:sharing-over-fence

  • Formal like hiring a car or a suit, or paying for local food
  •  Informal like barter or offering a neighbour a lift, lending them a car or giving them an old bike. The building of trust can start with just a friendly cup of sugar when they have run low.
  • Semi-formalised like local exchange currency trading, business barter systems, and selling/recycling goods on eBay, gum-tree.

Sharing and giving reduces our need to travel. It builds trust within relationships, neighbourhood goodwill and peaceful communities. People who enjoy each other’s company are more likely to make fun at home together rather than feel the need to travel to see friends.

Join us in a permaculture course online or on Permaculture Design Course Retreat.

Front-Page-Gallery-4

Solar Energy – The Oldest Power On Earth

Years of Power In Just One Day

There is more solar energy striking the earth’s surface in one and a half hours (480 EJ) than worldwide energy consumption in the year from all sources combined (430 EJ).solar-power-cut

“The question I ask myself is: what do I want to achieve? and what are all my options to get the task done? For example: when I buy a drill I am really wanting something to make a hole. Essentially, we need to
Keep the endpoint in focus and the options wide
Green Technology Engineer – Paul Kelly, Research Support at Permaculture Visions.

Wide Spectrum of Solar Opportunities

solar-rays

Solar power is abundant, free and the oldest power source known to humanity. The Sun beams a broad variety of energy waves to us.  For thousands of years humanity has used the heat, light and UV for our daily tasks.  We are enjoying an explosion of research and development as we near peak pollution and warming targets.  Along with the rise in Solar technology a number of female engineers are leading research and many mature women are able to contribute to installation and maintenance.

Boston Herald 1948 re: Dover Sun House invented by female engineer Maria Telkes.

Developing Technologies Include:

www.oorja.in

diagram: www.oorja.in
Different Solar hot water systems – bathroom water and room heating

What is the Environmental Cost of Solar Panels?

To calculate the full cost of any gadget we can do a whole of life analysis. This works out the energy cost from the time we dig the materials up to the time we dispose or recycle the materials. Research shows that a solar panels generate more energy that it took to create and many panels are lasting much longer than originally expected.

With recent developments including organic solar cells, the environmental cost is coming down. Durability and effeciency is constantly rising.

Can I Use Solar Energy Without Buying More Stuff?

Some great passive solar options include:

sustainability workshop
  • attach a conservatory or Greenhouse (made with recycled windows) to the sun-side of your home to create warm air. the trick is to keep it small to reduce the cooling air movement.
  • place mirrors in the garden to reflect light into the home. You can make sculptures out of recycled stainless steel instead of glass.
  • create a solar oven made out of reclaimed picture frames and a thickwalled box.
  • make your own light-shelves, install a waterbottle light in a dark shed
  • experiment with drying food
  • incorporate simple heat banks [like Trombe walls] into your home and office
  • hang herbs to dry in your kitchen or a simple solar dryer
  • hang your clothes to dry
  • if you live in a cold climate – build a cozy outdoor nook in the sunny corner of a tiny greenhouse. Incorporate lots of thermal mass (ie. mud-brick benches and pillars) and you can sunbathe in it on sunny days in winter.  Install a shower with a rocketstove water heater in another corner and you could spend most of your winters daytime happily in there as do many on Carraig Dulra permaculture farm in Ireland!

Here is a great list of DIY projects – Enjoy!

Learn how to integrate Solar into a Permaculture Lifestyle in a Permaculture Design Course with us Online.

Or immerse yourself in a full time two-week Permaculture design class this June at Permaculture Sydney with world-class teachers.

 

Is Chicken Threatened by Climate Change?

The Chicken Companion

chick_eggThe Chicken is one of the most successful species on the planet.  The chicken has traveled the world, exhibited in shows and been pampered affectionately.  For centuries they have enjoyed the best seats, fully catered free rides on ships, planes, trains, buses, canoes and rafts. Contrary to recent reports, Chickens are likely to adapt faster to climate change than humans. They have adapted twice already during their companionship with humanity. They are set to stay.

Chickens Process Waste and Provide Perfect Protein

egg-n-sprouts

Over Ten Thousand years ago, the chicken became the first domesticated animal.  What attracted the chicken to people was the abundance of waste. Chickens don’t mind eating slightly off-meat and love maggots and other distasteful horrors. Chickens rarely compete with humans for food. They eat a wide range of food and grit. People probably decided to keep the persistent chickens because they are relatively easy to catch at night and have highly nutritious eggs. They would have seen how quick and efficient chickens are to clean the waste.

What do Chickens have that we don’t?

silkie chick

Chickens often have carers. Chickens are also opportunistic eaters and learn to adapt to dietary changes. They are persistent parents. In good conditions they will breed every year. The chicks learn quickly and are independent within a few short months. Quite often, if things go poorly in the mothering house, a chicken will simply take a short break, fraternise with her favourite rooster then start laying and sitting again. Each generation provides a chance to genetically adapt. Even old hens [ie. our 9-year-old chicken, ‘Ginger’] suddenly started laying again if the conditions are right.

Chickens wake up with purpose and sleep well.

Chickens have been bred to be docile. Many domestic animals can die from stupidity. Chickens are highly unlikely to cause themselves harm.  Chickens have been known to accidentally drown or get trapped. Nor are Chickens so gallant that they choose to die. However, Roosters have been known to nobly defend the flock.

rooster-defend-chick-300x118

Fast Movers

Chickens come originally from the dense forests of the Tropics. Scientific evidence has demonstrated that they have already adapted twice before to enable them to grow obese anchickens-weedingd to breed all year round. They can adapt again, if they are given the r. Dr Carl-Johan Rubin of Uppsala University. 

When we provide chickens with the chance to shelter in the cool sections of a food forest, they help to control the weeds, fertilise the trees and clean up fallen fruit. Their tendency to get fat makes it easy for us to catch them when we need to.

Creative Chickens Train Their Keepers

It is us, the keepers that need to adapt if we wish to continue enjoying the company of Chickens. We can devise solar passive chicken houses, give the chickens some self-determination about where to lay or hang out during the day and take time out to observe them.

chook_small_facebookDon’t just dream about it – do a permaculture course and enjoy the change.

 

 

Anxiety and Permaculture? What’s the link?

Anxiety – Not A Merry Culture

sad-elephant-in-the-roomPermaculture (the design for a permanent culture) has the core ethics of care of people and care of the earth.  These two ethics seek to redress social and environmental ills.

Dr Terry Leahy sees clearly the link between anxiety and permaculture. Terry is presenting at our upcoming mini-conference about Permaculture in Society and Development.

Terry Leahy writes: How can it be good that one in four Australians experiences serious attacks of anxiety at one time or another in their lives? In any twelve month period 14 per cent will get anxiety attacks.

What is there to be Anxious about?

What is there to be anxious about when we live in the lucky country, surrounded by mod cons and ever-increasing wealth? The environmental catastrophe that everyone knows we are in for but nobody talks about too often. Work and economic survival in the neo-liberal economy.

have a giving spirit

Once upon a time jobs were for life if you wanted that, and there was full employment. House prices were low and government supplemented the housing market by building low-cost rental accommodation. Now a huge proportion of the population in work are doing casual jobs rather than having permanent positions. Those who are in permanent work are scared that it cannot last. House prices are crazy and there is no security in renting. Unemployment seems minor at six per cent but most people who cannot get a job do not register as unemployed, it is so hard to stay on welfare.

Add to all that the sense that the recession of 2008 has never gone away and the realization that the Australian economy still hangs on a knife-edge. People are made constantly aware that their life security depends on constantly jumping through hoops and being ready for anything.

We need an economy where people’s daily well-being does not depend on the vagaries of the global market, where the environment has priority and where you can really expect your grandchildren to live as well as you have.”

Self-Reliance versus Self-Sufficiency

bushwalk

Self-Sufficiency is rare. It has the goal of complete independence from society. In the self-sufficient culture, the sick or elderly are often left to die. Self-Reliance is different. Self reliance is a way of thinking and living that enables others to be part of the responsibility of providing for our needs by trading and sharing. The ‘Self-Reliance’ economy would involve care for the weak. Permaculture promotes self-reliance.

Keeping the Power of Feelingswe-can-do-it

When we are faced with anxieties it is hard to maintain optimism. Yet “optimism has more power than fear” (Bob Brown). Optimism is patient, organised and forgiving. Whereas, Fear is reactive, quick and often unplanned, leading to panic and regret .

Where To From Here?

Listen to your heart, your ethics and consult members of your community.  If you live our bio-region, join us in an upcoming mini-conference and workshops
Permaculture in Society and Development – Mini Conference 30th April 2016 or start do a permaculture course, build your own think thank community and enjoy a better future!

Affluenza’s Ground-Breaking Cure

Affluenza can be cured

fish laugh at the sleeping fisherman who is struck with AfluenzaEveryone is affected by Affluenza. “Globally affluenza is a back up of the flow of money, resulting in a polarization of classes, and loss of economic and emotional balance.” The debilitating side-effects of Affluenza include addiction, depression, and other social disorders.  An Affluenza pandemic can even trigger war.

The biggest causes of Affluenza are:

  • faith that money buys happiness
  • reliance on self-esteem linked to economic ‘value’
  • dependence on social status
  • insatiable greed

Money doesn’t always motivate

Beatrix Potter was an excellent example of someone who was curious, engaged and motivated. She studied animals and fungi with the sole purpose of building knowledge. Her study was not financially motivated, nor was she supported by the then chauvinistic scientific community. She was motivated by her passion. Later she was motivated to achieve financial independence from her parents and she turned to writing and illustrating. When she had achieved the goal, she used her surplus money to fund conservation projects.

Step safely outside the Affluenza zoneCure for Afluenza - enjoy a bushwalk and reconnect with nature

Albert Einstein produced most of his theories without funding. Funding often traps us into doing what the funding body wants. If we want to be truly free to follow our passions, we need to set up a small income stream of our own. Aim for a smooth transition by keeping a safe income stream flowing until the new income stream is viable. List your genuine needs. Respect these needs in your effort to live more simply.

Small Steps To Create Lasting Change

Creating change by implementing small and successful steps is a fundamental Permaculture principle. When change is sudden it can have unforeseen effects. How many times do we hear about broken promises and forgotten New Year’s resolutions? We don’t hear about small successes because, on a daily basis, we all make small changes. This is not news.  Permaculture is healthy lifestyle planning with a view to working with natural energies and lowering our impact on others and the planet. Once we have the plan we simply make small changes to fit.

5 Easy Cures for Affluenza:

  1. Keeping compost worms easier than a pet mermaid
    Keeping compost worms easier than a pet mermaid

    Get a sense of Purpose by adopting a responsibility. eg. Start a garden that will flourish with your attention, care for a productive animal like a chicken or learn how to start a worm-farm or beehive

  2. Re-connect with nature. Build your survival skills and self-confidence by learning to work with nature, not against her.
  3. Be productive outside the usual day. Repair something. Make something.
  4. Immerse yourself in of gratitude. Praise others.  Say thanks when someone does something special for you. Be proud. Celebrate the invisible successes (social) as well as the visible ones. Be an active member of your family and community.  Globally, we can be proud of important successes such as the education of women and children. Share your tangible successes such as your compost heap, home-grown fruits, hand-made shopping bag.
  5. Share and Let Go. Be generous with your compassion and respect. Give away surplus. Being sensible about giving away surplus may involve repairing something so that it can be properly used and valued by someone else. (For example: why not fix that button before you pass that shirt on?)
we walk the talk - award winning business and food forest
We walk the talk. Our winning food forest is mature and inspiring. Thank you for supporting us.

 

12 Permaculture Design Principles For Small Business

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

tour-of-schumaker-college-garden
Touring Schumacher College, Totnes UK

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:

  1. An Orchard needs protection from fire, a good water supply. It also needs to be weeded and rotten fruit needs to be removed.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.ladies-morning-meeting-in-glasshouse-market-garden
  • 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 Yieldmulberry-cheesecake

  • 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.Permaculture Principle: Set limits and redistribute surplus
  • 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),
  • identify successes
  • 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.

grocycle mushrooms grown on coffee wasteA 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.

10. Stacking

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 boats-on-the-dart-river-totneswork 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.

12. Context

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.

Industry-prone-and-soil-and-soul-suffersIn 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 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):

  • Diversity increases
  • 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.)

Summary

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.