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permaculture core values

Three Permaculture Core Values Are the Secret to a Sustainable Future

By Tanner SagouspeRise Writer
Oct 10, 2019

As nations begin to transition into clean technology, stores start to carry more sustainable products, and our vehicles transition to electric-powered, what can homeowners do to follow the trend? There's plenty to be said about how to transition your home into a clean, more sustainable future, and it's easy to get bogged down by all the information.

Permaculture can help guide you towards making sustainable decisions on your property. Here at Rise, we have looked into the twelve permaculture principles, which are great resources to filter through design concepts and lead your home closer to sustainability. 

Understanding more about permaculture and its three core values can further help guide homeowners towards sustainable designs.

What is Permaculture?

The term permaculture comes from the Latin words "permanens" which translates as "to persist through time" and "cultura" or "activities that support human existence." Permaculture is meant to be a persistent system that supports human existence, beginning at the home level and working into the local community and beyond. It's a compilation of ideologies and environmental concepts created by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, meant to create a society that works with, rather than against, nature.

Permaculture can be easily summed up into three core values: Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. In other words, we want to make sure sure that we are

  • being responsible stewards of the earth
  • responding to the needs of ourselves and others, and 
  • being sure our surplus doesn't go to waste by sharing it.
permaculture garden
Photo Credit: EarthCare

Earth Care

So, what does earth care mean? The best way to see it is the protection of soil. Soil loss is a significant problem in our world, with 30 soccer fields of soil lost every minute to human-caused erosion. Soil erosion typically isn't a problem in nature, as dense vegetation prevents water from directly hitting the earth, and the roots from the plants further hold the ground together.

At a home scale, this means ensuring your ground is always covered. Whether you have a bee lawn, flowerbeds, or food forest, try to find any spots with bare earth. Then, either plant ground cover or mulch if you're leaving room for your plants to grow.

If you are designing a garden, consider placing various perennial plants that will establish in place and require less maintenance over time. Our forests and grasslands are full of diverse plant varieties, and it's that diversity that creates resilience.

Be sure to consider your climate and ecoregion before planting on your property. If you live within the prairies or plains, you're going to have better luck with varieties of native grasses and herbaceous perennials. But if you are in the wet forests of Cascadia, woody perennials and tree cover will more likely suit your site.

Like a doctor vows to "first, do no harm" to their patients, a permaculture designer aims to not harm the planet.

village homes california
Photo Credit: Village Homes

People Care

When examining People Care, you need to look at it in layers. First and foremost, you need to think about what you require to care for yourself. Crucial things like food, water, and shelter from the elements (including electricity) have to be your primary concern. Aiming to create these systems on your property to sustain yourself better prepares you to care for your family or household. That means ensuring needs are met and done so as sustainably as possible.

Finally, you have the community around you as a whole. These are your friends, neighbors, and the local community. They are the people you can fall back on in times of need. Care of people at a larger scale aims to ensure that every human's basic needs are met.

Now, that doesn't mean donating every extra penny to charity or volunteering at local shelters in every free second. It means looking to the future and planning today, for our children's tomorrow. A fruit tree planted today produces enough fruit in a few years to share with others. A neighborhood deciding that they want their collective front and backyards to be a food forest creates an oasis in an otherwise food desert.

"People Care" is about ensuring that everyone has the same chance to feel safe and happy.

Fair Share

The third tenet is "Fair Share." This tenet can also be called "Careful Process," which encompasses taking surpluses from your system and reinvesting them where they will do the most good. Think of fair share as "Reduce. Reuse. Recycle." or putting everything, even waste, to good use.

Some examples of this include composting food waste, which eventually makes it back into the garden where it feeds the next plants. Another example is sharing an excess of seeds with neighbors to help them get their permaculture systems set up. With more resources evenly distributed to your local community, it creates a world of abundance in a world of growing resource scarcity.

Planting perennial crops can be considered a form of fair share. Those fruit trees and berry bushes will grow and produce more than one person can harvest and consume. To prevent this abundance of food from going to waste, you can work with family and friends to collect and preserve, sharing in the bounty and labor together.

Fair share is about moving our surplus resources back into earth care, and people care. We do this because there's more than enough for everybody when we reinvest our excess back into local communities.

We do this is because if we can better help someone achieve sustainability, they can then share that kindness to help someone else down the road. This creates interwoven communities built on hope, compassion, and resilience.

"Fair Share" is choosing to build gates between our backyards instead of fences.

Value your Transition 

Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share are the three core values of permaculture. They make up the foundation of the design work on our property, but some permaculture designers have begun incorporating a fourth tenet to the process: the transitional value.

The transitional value expresses that we, as a society, can't "go green" immediately. As wonderful as it would be to wake up tomorrow to a full set of solar panels, redundant water sources for your family and property, and a food forest with the biodiversity of a rain forest, that's likely not going to happen. On top of that, you still need to consider pollutants produced from mining resources, manufacturing the products, and shipping them to your door.

A lot of pollution goes into everything we do. That's not our fault; that's our current world. But with every fruit and vegetable we grow at home, we cut down the environmental cost of transportation. With each load of laundry that we line dry, we cut down the energy drawn from the system.

The transitional value teaches us that the world won't change overnight, but it does start today with small choices. Choose something small today, like buying foods grown on a plant over foods made in a plant. And then keep doing it. Eventually, that one little sustainable practice will become second nature, and you can try something different, like starting a container garden and sharing your excess.

Everyone can be the change the world needs; in fact, the world will only change if we all do our part.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-04-24T00:09:40+0000
Tanner Sagouspe

Article by:

Tanner Sagouspe

Tanner Sagouspe has a Masters in Environmental Management and is a Permaculture Designer who promotes tackling the climate crisis at home.