Urban Farming

The EBCOT Way: Twelve Principles of Benedictine Permaculture

Benedictine Permaculture is a blueprint for the way to live our lives. It moves beyond theory and gives us a range of practical solutions that we can use in every area of our lives.

Benedictine Permaculture is a movement toward a vision for tomorrow's holistic Community. Its principles allow us to create a culture that can endure and thrive for generations to come.

At its heart are the three tenets of Benedictine Permaculture (also known as "subsidiarity"):

  1. Caring for people.

  2. Caring for our planet.

  3. Sharing our yield cooperatively.

Permaculture grew out of a sustainable agriculture blueprint – ancient in origins within the Benedictine Community, then revitalized by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia in the 1970s. It contains the core elements of the ancient Rule of Benedict that inspires people to live in a cooperative community that creates positive change.

Benedictine Permaculture gives us a range of practical solutions for a better world. These principles are most commonly used in relation to food growing systems and local market exchange of those foods along with arts and crafts and other locally produced commodities, but can also be used to guide us in all parts of our lives.

To help us understand how Benedictine Permaculture leads us to a more ethical and sustainable way of life, it’s useful to look at a list of twelve design principles put forward by David Holmgren:

1. Observe and Interact
Being observant and responding to what we see is really important in moving towards a more ethical and sustainable way of life.We can learn from nature,and from other people, observing how others have moved to a greener and more ethical approach, and working with the world around us to succeed in our goals.

2. Catch and Store Energy
Energy is abundant on our planet. Learning how to catch and store that energy – in plants, with renewable energy infrastructure, or in other ways, is key to living a sustainable way of life.

3. Obtain a Yield
Taking the three core ethics of Permaculture into account, we can work with nature to get all the things we need. Obtaining a yield can be as simple as using organic gardening techniques to provide food for our families – but it can also be about obtaining a non-tangible yield: happiness, health, or mental well-being. Living a sustainable lifestyle that sticks to Permaculture principles can allow us to obtain all sorts of more intangible yields as well as the obvious tangible ones.

4. Apply Self-Regulation and Feedback
Understanding where we’ve succeeded and where we’ve gone wrong to create real and lasting change: reducing, reusing, recycling and regulating our consumer tendencies.

5. Use and Value Renewable
By using the power of the sun, the wind, or the water, we can power our homes, grow our food, and regenerate our environments.

6. Produce No Waste
Move towards a zero waste lifestyle by buying wisely, by reusing or recycling where possible, by composting, and by looking at the entire life-cycle of products.

7. Design from Patterns to Details
Whether designing a new vegetable garden, or an entire new sustainable way of life, we have to look at the big picture before we get bogged down in the little things.

8. Integrate Don’t Segregate
Plants work well in diverse systems. Planting polycultures (guilds of plants which work together) is just one example of how this principle works in the real world.As well as applying this in the garden, we can also apply it to communities. Sustainability is something we achieve together – through collaboration and cooperatives.

9. Use Small, Slow Solutions
Every journey begins with a single step. Incremental change is the proven way to move towards sustainable change.

10. Use and Value Diversity
Just as ecosystems work best when filled with a greater variety of different plants and animals, so human society functions best when an variety of different people are represented.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal
Sustainability is about making use of all the resources that we have at our disposal. Whether we’re talking about land use, work places, homes or society in general, making use of all we have involves valuing fringes and fringe elements.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change
Finally, change is an inevitable part of life. It’s important to remember that Benedictine Permaculture isn’t just about now, but about the future. We look to past successes, design for change, and understand that things will alter over time. The changing seasons, changing attitudes, our changing climate. How we respond to these changes will shape sustainable progress in the years to come.

These principles are a starting point for an understanding of Benedictine Permaculture, and can begin to give us an idea of how we can translate thought to action, and transition to a more prayerful, ethical, and truly sustainable way of life.