David Holmgren Principles

Principles proposed by David Holmgren in his book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. David Holmgren, Holmgren Design Services, Australia, 2003, 320pp. Principles from "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability" by David Holmgren

Holmgren Principles Book
Principle 1

Observe and Interact

Observation is key to permaculture. Developing good observation skills is essential if we want to make well-functioning permaculture designs.

Principle 2

Catch and Store Energy

This principle deals with the capture and storage of energy, within the environment, buildings and even society. If you think about a bank account, this principle is about how we can make our capital bigger, rather than how we spend the interest.

Principle 3

Obtain a Yield

This principle is like an order. Make sure that every time you design a house, garden, park, or school, it includes elements that will provide real tangible yields. 

Principle 4

Apply Self-regulation and Accept Feedback

This principle deals with the self-regulatory aspects of permaculture that limit or discourage inappropriate actions and behaviours. 

Principle 5

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

Permaculture design aims to make best use of renewable resources to create, manage and maintain high yielding systems, even if some non-renewable resources are needed to establish the system in the first place.

Principle 6

Produce no Waste

Waste is just an unused output. If the output is unusable, or downright dangerous, we probably shouldn't be producing it in the first place (plutonium for example).

Principle 7

Design from Patterns to Details

The patterns found in the natural world are a source of inspiration for permaculture. 'Pattern thinking' can be used in a wide variety of situations, unlike specific techniques which can only be used in particular situations. 

Principle 8

Integrate rather than Segregate

One of the most important insights from ecology is that the relationships between things are as important as the things themselves. A healthy vibrant ecosystem is a mass of connections and relationships. That's what we are trying to create with a permaculture system.

Principle 9

Use Small and Slow Solutions

This reminds us that systems should be designed to function at the smallest scale that is practical and energy efficient (rather than the biggest). In some ways this is a value judgement. Permaculture usually favours small scale and local, over big scale and global.

Principle 10

Use and Value Diversity

Diversity is the very essence and joy of life. Maintaining and enhancing the diversity of existing eco-systems is essential for so many reasons. 

Principle 11

Use Edges and Value the Marginal

The place where two eco-systems or habitats meet (e.g. woodland and meadow) is generally more productive and richer in the variety of species present than either habitat on its own. In ecology this is called 'ecotone'. 

Principle 12

Creatively Use and Respond to Change

We know things are changing - faster than we would like maybe. Climate change, peak oil, resource depletion, population growth, technology changes, economic booms and busts, all contribute to a less than certain age. Many of these challenges seem beyond our control.