Permaculture Principles Comparison

Almost every book or course on permaculture has a section on principles. They are not all the same. Here’s a summary and comparison of commonly used principles.

The first set of principles that I see most commonly used are by  David Holmgren in his book  Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability and other works.

  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

For a permaculture design course, the main textbook is Permaculture, a Designers’ Manual by Bill Mollison. He lists five principles

  • Work with nature rather than against
  • Everything gardens
  • The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited
  • The problem is the solution
  • Make the least change for the greatest possible effect.

Bill Mollison also wrote twelve permaculture principles in Introduction to Permaculture, but they are different and more technical than the twelve by David Holmgren.

  1. Relative location.
  2. Each element performs many functions.
  3. Each important function is supported by many elements.
  4. Efficient energy planning: zone, sector and slope
  5. Using biological resources.
  6. Cycling of energy, nutrients, resources.
  7. Small-scale intensive systems; including plant stacking and time stacking.
  8. Accelerating succession and evolution.
  9. Diversity; including guilds.
  10. Edge effects.
  11. Everything works both ways
  12. Permaculture is information and imagination-intensive

Finally, in Toby Hemenway: Gaia’s Garden, he combines, and reworks some of the preceding principles and makes his own list of fourteen.

  1. Observe
  2. Connect
  3. Catch and Store Energy and materials
  4. Each element performs multiple functions
  5. Each function is supported by multiple elements
  6. Make the least change for the greatest effect
  7. Use Small scale intensive systems
  8. Optimize edge
  9. Collaborate with succession
  10. Use biological and renewable resources
  11. Turn problems into solutions
  12. Get a yield
  13. The biggest limit to abundance is creativity
  14. Mistakes are tools for learning

Some repeated themes are observation, working with nature and using biological resources,  combining elements, catching and storing energy,  small and slow systems, edges, and using creativity and imagination.

principles: This pdf lists all the principles. The first page is in order, the second page lines up similar principles. 

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