What is Permaculture?

One of the first places to start in your permaculture training is the definition of the word.  How do you define permaculture?



the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.


To help clarify the definition of permaculture here is another way to look at it:

What it isn’t

Given the confusion surrounding the meaning and intent of the word, it is often helpful to start with what permaculture isn’t.  Permaculture is not:

  • a religion
  • a set of spiritual beliefs
  • a hippy movement

That’s not to say you cannot be religious/spiritual and practice permaculture – many people can and do.  However, these things are not a requirement of the practice of permaculture.  Certainly, when designing a permaculture site the needs of the users must be taken into account and these could include religious or spiritual systems.

What it is
Permaculture is a system of sustainable design.  It is a contraction of the term “permanent agriculture”, and is generally used to make the best use of land, aiming for low maintenance and high yields of food and other products.  In part this is achieved by ‘closing the loop’ – trying to ensure the system takes care of itself.

However, the system of design is not limited to agriculture, and the permaculture principles can be implemented in other pursuits.
As an engineer I try to implement a similar approach to projects: minimising input, maximising output and closing the system to reduce waste – this could be waste heat, materials, time, anything.

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