The Edmonton Permaculture Guild is a young non-profit society whose application of permaculture knowledge and practices in Edmonton is attracting interested citizens.
What is permaculture?
Permaculture is “a challenging thing to define because it’ s whole systems approach to designing landscapes and cultures and societies and structures,” explains Sabrena Falcone, an Edmonton Permaculture Guild board member.
Permaculture originated as a combination of the words permanent and agriculture. Its founders, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison, “were trying to develop a system where they could get out of the cycles of boom and bust and famine and feast,” says Falcone. “They wanted to develop a system where there was longevity, that long-lasting sustainability that’s permanent.” However, they discovered that other human-made systems besides agriculture also lacked sustainability and the world permaculture came to represent “permanent culture.”
While Falcone says she likes these definitions of permaculture, she suggests that understanding “how permaculture acts, what it does and what its aims are” provides additional clarity. She offers the following definition of permaculture:
“The aim of permaculture is to develop systems that mimic nature. Those systems include the way we grow our food, the way we build our structures, the way we organize ourselves as well. So [permaculturists are] using ecological principles in order to develop these systems that lead towards a permanent culture, something that could be sustaining in the long term.”
What does permaculture look like in Edmonton?
Since permaculture uses local resources in its designs, it can look different in different places. For example, permaculture practices in Australia, where permaculture originated, vary from Canadian practices. But all permaculturists are guided by the movement’s three values:
- care for the earth
- care for people
- sharing of the surplus
Local citizens hoping to apply permaculture practices in Edmonton can look to the movement’s knowledge base on how to live sustainably in a cold climate. Permaculturists have found ways to lengthen growing seasons with innovations like greenhouses that use only the sun’s energy and air circulation to keep plants warm. “There are some people who are growing year-round in greenhouses in areas that are very akin to Edmonton’s climate,” says Falcone.
In addition to finding efficient ways to keep plants warm, permaculturists have insulated homes simply by using what nature has to offer, such as straw. Falcone provides several reasons for using straw as an insulator in Alberta:
- It’s locally sourced
- It provides incredible insulation
- It breathes … which is really good for air quality
- It keeps the home quiet because it blocks sound from the outside world
- It’s completely recyclable and renewable
There are some homes in Edmonton insulated with straw and even more outside Edmonton, according to Falcone, who notes that there are permit legalities involved in using straw as insulation in Edmonton homes.
About the Edmonton Permaculture Guild
The permaculture movement in Edmonton began as a community group headed by Ron Berezan in the mid 2000s. From late 2012 to early 2013, the group began taking steps to becoming a non-profit society and were officially incorporated as the Edmonton Permaculture Guild in April 2014.
Falcone emphasizes that the Edmonton Permaculture Guild is a very young society. As such, they are still organizing themselves and exploring their potential.
Edmontonians’ involvement with the permaculture group has also been largely exploratory. “We have tons of people who are interested in permaculture but very few paying members and very few people who volunteer with us,” says Falcone. As a young society, the Edmonton Permaculture Guild could benefit greatly from “more action-oriented support.” Those who become involved with the Edmonton Permaculture Guild now could have the opportunity to provide significant input into the direction of the guild as it continues to establish itself.
Get involved with the Edmonton Permaculture Guild
Falcone offers three levels of involvement for those interested in the Edmonton Permaculture Guild:
- Join the Edmonton Permaculture Guild’s Facebook group. Members are active on the page, asking questions and posting information. This is also where the guild advertises its events.
- Attend Edmonton Permaculture Guild events. Events are a great way to meet others interested in permaculture in Edmonton
- Become a member of the Edmonton Permaculture Guild. For a $25 annual fee, members can get discounts to events, vote at board meetings, join a committee or become a board member and help permaculture grow in Edmonton. The guild is also considering members-only events.
Permaculture activities and events
Past and current activities of the Edmonton Permaculture Guild include:
- Speakers’ Series. When the guild was still a community group, they held monthly events where a permaculture expert would describe one of their projects. Events included garden and farm tours and beekeeping and composting workshops. The guild is hoping to revive the series.
- Perma-blitzes Falcone describes perma-blitzes as ” little work bees to install permaculture designs on properties,” and adds that it’s a real hands-on, fun work day.
Anyone who wants to have a perma-blitz on their property will take the following steps:
- make sure that the design is completed
- Have someone who will facilitate the work day
- Have all the materials in place
- Offer participants some sort of learning experience. Plus they get fed and showered with praise.
The Edmonton Resilience Festival
In addition to hosting their own events, The Edmonton Permaculture Guild is partnering with The Local Good to organize the inaugural Edmonton Resilience Festival, which will be held on Feb. 7 and 8, 2015. They are actively assisting with the selection and organization of the festival’s workshops and many members of the guild will be volunteering or hosting workshops during the festival. The Edmonton Permaculture Guild is an ideal partner in the festival’s organization because they held an event last year called Harvest Fest, which was very similar to the resilience festival.
There are many ways to become involved in permaculture in Edmonton as the local movement grows and evolves. For anyone interested in building and participating in sustainable systems, the Edmonton Permaculture Guild is a great community resource.