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SHS Garden Journal Blog

Permaculture Principle: Use and value renewable resources and services

Friday, June 28, 2013

Renewable energy sources

Energy sources found in nature that exist freely and are readily available to be converted to energy. e.g. Solar, Wind, Tidal waves, Biomass, Hydropower, Geothermal.

Non-renewable resources

Energy sources found in nature that have taken millions of years to form, are used in the production of energy and will eventually run out. e.g. Fossil Fuels (coal, oil, gas), uranium.

Being the middle of winter, this is a timely principle to think about as we may be more dependent on energy sources to: heat our homes or workplaces, dry our clothing, spend more time in our cars, eat warmer foods, use lighting for longer hours, etc. 

How can we be effective in our energy consumption?

Think twice before using non-renewable energy sources and look for alternatives. Extra blankets, layers of clothing, a beanie and scarf and Ugg boots may do the trick to keep the electric heater from being turned on.

This Permaculture Principle reminds us of the sources of renewable energy (green or clean energy) available to us readily in nature, that can be used as a resource or service; and the need to reduce our consumption and reliance of non-renewable resources for energy production that are running out and impacting our environment. 

On a daily level in our home, school or organisation we can look at ways that we can minimise our reliance on non-renewable energy, while maximising the potential of alternative forms of energy.

A classic example that David Holmgren refers to in demonstrating this principle is the Solar Clothes Dryer:
“A clothesline makes use of sunshine and wind to dry clothes. This is a non-consuming use because neither the sunlight nor the wind are significantly less available for other uses. Clotheslines require minimal materials, in this case nylon cords and salvaged timber. This simple system replaces a tumble dryer in which hot air (heated using 2000 Watts of typically fossil fuelled electricity) is blasted through clothes, bashing around in a metal drum, rotating on nylon bearings, which typically wear out in a few years. The solar clothes dryer provides another renewable service, sterilization from UV radiation, reducing the consumption of more non-renewable resources, noxious laundry chemicals used to sterilise nappies.” 

Source: Permaculture Ethics and Design Principles Teaching Kit, Second Edition, David Holmgren, Co-originator of the permaculture concept.

Riding a bike or walking is another great step to reducing our impact and consumption on resources, and both provide us with a service in return - a free source of exercise to improve our health and fitness. I have noticed in the last few years an increase in the amount of cyclists that travel past my home to and from work each day – the addition of improved bike lanes and tracks has encouraged this. 

Including chickens in our garden system has supported the transfer of waste to a natural source of energy within our garden. Our food scraps, garden waste, and unwanted pests are fed to the chickens this provides them with a diverse diet and in turn the chickens convert this matter to nutrient high manure to fertilise our garden plants and trees providing them with energy. That’s not the only service the chickens provide – we also receive healthy fresh eggs. This simple step has meant that we are do not need to purchase garden fertiliser.  We are contributing to a closed loop system where energy is remaining within our system to enhance our environment.

Special Note:

Our permaculture articles are based on the 12 design permaculture principles developed by David Holmgren, visit for more information and resources. 

If you would like to learn more about Permaculture please visit the following sites for courses (including some upcoming courses with David Holmgren):

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