(This is post 1 of 7 in a series, to see the post about the series, click here.)
Before we even get into all of the wonderful ways that you can apply permaculture thinking to the place you live, I want to share some ideas about how to apply it to choosing where you live:
Carefully selecting where you live has an enormous effect your ability to reduce your ecological footprint while building self-reliance and community resilience. Whether you’re actively looking for a new abode, or are thinking about moving in the near future, you might consider utilizing the permaculture princples of Relative Location and Stacking Functions in your search:
- Relative Location
- Stacking Functions/Yields in Space There are a ton of ways this can be applied to where we live, here are a few:How many housemates can it fit?
This one is obvious: more housemates means lower rent per person. But it also means that each person’s share of electricity, gas, and other energy costs go down. There is not only significant financial benefit, but also environmental benefit as fewer resources are being utilized, and less pollution is being generated per person.
Is there space to work from home?
I can personally speak to the joys of a 10 second commute, and to the hours per month I save by not giving into the temptation of subletting a deskspace here. Instead, I can spend those couple hours per month that would be bike-or-car-commute time tending to the garden or hanging out with family and friends.
For folks with office-type jobs, check out this article about negotiating with an employer to work from home.
What else can it yield?
Urban dwellers, especially us renters, often see a home, and the site it sits on, as just a place to eat, sleep, recreate, and socialize. But what if we were to see every bit of space as a potential source of multiple yields?
The fact is that, in one way or another, every single place we rent can provide many things that we need: food, medicine, water, money, energy, and compost, to name a few. And they can also provide for our broader communities, by providng space for meetings, organizing, workshops, parties, freeboxes, produce sharing, and much more.
When it comes to obtaining financial yields from the places we rent, I like this idea: houses situated on or near major thoroughfares provide countless opportunities to participate in underground enterprise like secret cafés, living room boutiques, rent parties, backyard farmer’s markets, mini-CSA’s etc. With a little creativity, it’s easy to make the place you rent pay your rent (I’ll be posting a lot on this idea). (There’s a whole other component to this stacking stuff, stacking in time, to which I’ll be devoting an entire post of its own.)
The time and energy it takes to get from your home to every place you need to go should be factored into a holistic calculation of both the financial and environmental cost of a house, room, or apartment. The place with the cheapest rent might not actually be the cheapest when you factor in the extra mile to and from work every weekday.
If serious attention is given to the relative location between your home and all of the places you need to, enormous amounts of time, money, and energy can be saved. Walk-ability and bike-ability (the number of necessary trips that you can make by foot/bike) are key.
(To get a sense of a neighborhood’s walkability, check out walkscore.com)
Not all places are created equal in their ability to easily adapt to all of these uses, but in looking for a place, we get to use our imagination and creativity to see how each prospective home could produce diverse and abundant yields.
I look forward to hearing from folks reading this about ideas you have, and will include them in later posts on this subject where we’ll look at how some of the other permaculture principles might apply to finding a place.