Sunday, August 4, 2013

12 Principles of permaculture: Principle 6 - Produce no waste

"Waste" is a very subjective term. With that said, I believe that all the ethics and principles of permaculture can easily be wrapped up into this one principle, produce no waste.

Simple, right? Well, one would think. I get so overwhelmed sometimes when I really put into perspective the task we are up against. I'm not just talking about the waste and toxins that currently exist in the environment, but the ever-pervasive frame of mind within our society as a whole that produces such toxic wast to begin with.

I remember hearing an analogy describing our species as a herd of buffalo. This massive, powerful herd of buffalo is running at breakneck speed towards a cliff and if the herd doesn't stop and turn around now, the entire herd will go right over the cliff and plummet to their death. there are a few buffalo within this herd, however, who can see the cliff and impending doom. They scream and protest their direction to no avail.  What are these few buffalo that are stuck in the middle of a speeding herd supposed to do? The only thing they can do is be carried off of the cliff to their death all while screaming, "Wait! No! Not that way... this way!" I get that feeling often.

I once read an article featuring a family living a sustainable lifestyle.  Their goal was to produce as little waste as possible.  In more than a year's time, they only produces enough trash to fit inside a shoe box and that box was far from full. So, I'm here to say to you that it is possible to lead a lifestyle that produces no waste. In permaculture, nothing goes to waste. Our "waste" ultimately becomes soil that feeds the food that feeds us. If waste exists, your design is lacking. This is also where we can take from the previous lesson and accept feedback.

Practical exercise:

What are you wasting?! Here's what I want you to do. Place a sheet of paper on the wall near your trash can. Every time you place something in the can, I want you to write down what it was you threw away and come up with some ways that you can avoid having to throw that in the trash in the future. What can be composted? What can be recycled? Upcycled? Get creative.

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