Permaculture principles

Going back to the metaphor that the permaculture ethics are like the rules of the games, the permaculture principles are more like the guideline to get better at the game. They aren't the answer; you have to figure that out for yourself.

As with any game, different people have different guidelines. 

How the principles have developed

Permaculture was originally co-created in the 1970s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. It was based on observations of natural systems and long-term human communities.

What started out as a short list of principles has developed into various lists depending on which book you read. However, in 2002, Holmgren published an updated list of twelve principles. These have gained popularity, and we recommend the version published on the Permaculture Association's website.

Holmgren's 12 permaculture principles

  • Observe and interact
  • Catch and store energy
  • Obtain a yield
  • Apply self regulation and accept feedback 
  • Produce no waste 
  • Use renewable resources and services
  • Design from pattern to detail
  • Integrate rather than segregate 
  • Use small and slow solutions
  • Use and value diversity
  • Use edges and value the marginal 
  • Creatively use and respond to change

The principles are applicable across a range of situations. They can be applied to anything from designing your garden to designing an organisation.

Here are a few example of how Brighton Permaculture Trust uses the principles in our organisation. 

Observe and interact

Before starting on the design for our plot at Stanmer Park, a lot of time was spent observing what had happened previously on the site and interacting with people that had been involved previously. This helped give us a better understanding of some of the opportunities and challenges that awaited us.

Catch and store energy

The scumping project is a great example of this principle.  Lots of energy goes into the production of fruit, and, if that fruit isn't used, that energy goes to waste. Our scrumping project "catches" that energy by picking unused fruit and "stores" it by transforming the fruit into food resources like juices, jellies and chutneys.  

Creatively use and respond to change

Since Brighton Permaculture Trust was founded in 2000, it has been continuously evolving.  The core founders have been more or less involved in the organisation since its inception, while new people have also come on board. The projects have changed depending on the challenges and resources available. As such, the organisation has been resilient in responding to changes in funding. 

Integrate rather than segregate

Brighton Permaculture Trust has put a lot of effort into developing good relationships with other key organisations in Stanmer Park, at the council, and with other community groups. This has allowed successful projects like the community orchards project to flourish. 

Can you see how the permaculture principles might be useful in a wide range of applications?

To find out more, visit the Permaculture Association's website.