Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Stepping Stones To Sustainability" USA

 I read an article on Pathways to Sustainability recently  ( which got me thinking as it discussed 3 levels with the final level being described as:
Practices and elements which are found in households dedicated to resilience, self-sufficiency, and sustainability. The owners view their property as a system”.
This may be “A” Pathway for some but does it really mean that other household’s individuals are not dedicated to resilience, self-sufficiency, and sustainability? If they do not fit this pathway.
A common question asked when working as a PERMACULTURIST is how can I practice Permaculture, Sustainable Practices when I live in flat, I don’t have a garden, I rent, I have no idea where to start, it is all over welling.

To answer these questions I refer to the principles of Permaculture and how they can be applied in all climate zones and space requirements. As Bill Mollison says “All you need is some Sun, Seed, Water and Soil”. I would also like to add an understanding of waste management too, as it can become the soil, the water, and the seed. Plus “there is not one Permaculture”.

I must admit that I have not practiced Permaculture on any land less than 1000m2 and when reading the article above I felt proud as I fit the 3rd level? … I do have swales but no compost toilet… Am I a level 3 or not? I consider myself dedicated to the sustainability cause, am I being told I am not? I am confused!


My recent trip to the States has given me thought to Alternative Pathways to Sustainability or as I would like to say “Stepping Stones to Sustainability” as there are so many steps we can take and in every direction to be sustainable. We have to look beyond your own backyard and not only observe nature but the culture’s and traditions of where we are.

We cannot all grow food or want to for various reasons, time, space, money, motivation, and knowledge.

Santa Monica Farmers Market

Is this Nature down there?

Observing Nature is a key skill to develop as a Permaculturist … how will I do this in LA and New York?
As this was my first trip to these cities I realized in the end I was observing a nature I had never seen before.

This blog is about the observations made of activities that lead to Sustainability in an environment I am unfamiliar with though which most of us live within.

On the Edge...Fertile .. Venice Beach

I saw no Swales, Compost Toilets though there are many people using practices and elements that are a dedication to resilience, self-sufficiency, and sustainability and see their lives as a sustainable system.

 Everywhere I went I saw small and large “Stepping-Stones to Sustainability” and all walking this pathway are to be cheered and encouraged and that is the first step (Think Sustainable).

Second is to take the thought and turn it into a positive action.

When I was in Santa Monica and Malibu I went to the local farmers Markets. To be there you have progressed from Step 1. Yahoo !!! You are on the way !!

Shopping for SLOW (Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness) Food. You don’t have to be a Permaculturist to do this?
Importantly you are voting for a cleaner future, healthy life style and supporting those who have the knowledge, land and commitment to support you in your Sustainable life.

If we are going to buy SLOW why not eat it too when out?


I was fortunate to meet Spoon Singh owner of the Venice Beach Ale house where the commitment is to providing SLOW (Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness) Food and ALE J. Success of the business is shown in the patronage; over 300 meals were made on a Sunday. 300 more on a “Stepping Stone to Sustainability” supporting a sustainable small business system.


At the Alehouse I saw more innovative sustainable solutions for transport.  A Bamboo bike and electric motor cycle.

Bamboo Frame

Spoon uses the Zero for transport to and from work and around LA.The Zero motorcycle produces less than one-eighth of the CO2 pollution per mile petrol powered motorcycle. It will also produce 1/100th of emissions causing nitrous oxides.

Plugged in 

Carta Singh, Spoon’s brother manufactures the Bamboo bike and Hemp clothing.

Un Plugged

So here I was on the edge of a concrete city and all around me were ways to reduce pollution, support sustainable food production, education of others through showing what is possible if you think first about where you live. The solutions are out there for you to include in your daily life to live a sustainable life.  

The Big Apple

New York showed me mulching with tree trimmings on 5th Avenue!!! How great is that some of the most expensive real estate in the world and return of biomass to the soil at their door step !!!

5th AVE Mulching 

Then there was the separation of waste from buildings along 5th Avenue.
5Th AVE Recycling

The West Side Community Garden

The West Side Community Garden is owned and maintained by the West Side Community Garden Inc., an all-volunteer not-for-profit organization incorporated under New York State Law.

Veg Garden Plot West Side

The West Side Community Garden was founded in 1976 on a trash-strewn 89,000 square foot vacant lot on Columbus Avenue that had been slated for an urban renewal project. In 1982, the Community board, developers, and the New York City Planning Commission approved a permanent Garden plan, and a groundbreaking for the present Garden took place in October 1987. The property for the current Garden site was deeded to West Side Community Garden Inc. in November 1989.
The current design for the garden was developed by the Gardeners working with Artists and the current layout, incorporating a floral amphitheater and public seating area, was part of the Gardener’s vision from the very beginning.
Landscape designer Terry Schnadelbach took the Gardener’s vision and created a blueprint design, which was built to our specifications during 1987-88. The Garden and Terry Schnadelbach won the Philip N. Winslow award for best landscape design in 1991.

Within the vegetable plot there was an amazing amount of educational information anyone could wish for.


Care for soil, mulching, composting and the encouragement of beneficial predators, butterflies, birds, bees.

My observations from LA to New York opened my eyes to many examples of dedication to resilience, self-sufficiency, and sustainability?

Here are 8 “Stepping Stones To Sustainability” for those without land.

1. Think Sustainably “like a Permaculturist” Bill suggested reading all you can on climate change and observe Nature. Nature might not look like what we think it is?
2. Shop at Farmers Markets and like shops buying SLOW (Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness) Food.
3.  Shop using recycle bags and refuse unnecessary plastic packaging
4. When eating out, eat SLOW (Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness) Food
5. Recycle waste (sort organics from recyclables) its someone’s wealth
6. Consider sustainable transport options
7. Join a community garden, Permaculture group.
8. Tell your friends about the “Stepping Stones” you are walking on.

  I just wanted to show no mater how big a step or small you take towards a sustainable future it all matters and counts no matter where you live or how you live. There is no walls in this fight against climate change we are one world and we need to support each other not set up barriers or classifications to our involvement we just need to be involved some how. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Farming on a Volcano “La Soufriere, The Sulfurer" St Vincent

I had the most unexpected lesson in sustainable farming, classic textbook stuff we all aspire to when first learning “Permaculture” It was as though the pagers of Bill’s Designer Manual were jumping out at me everywhere I turned.

Permanent Sustainable Agriculture 

This chance happening occured in St Vincent the Caribbean while there to watch the one-day cricket series between Australia and the West Indies. That is another story but what a great way to watch cricket, sights and sounds I have never witnessed at a game anywhere in the world. To witness a tie too was very special. Australia very lucky!!!

Tied Match

Colourful Cricket

On a rest day between matches We decided to take a day trip up to see the Volcano “La Soufriere” The people I went to see the cricket with sponsor children from the local Island of Canouan to attend secondary school on St Vincent as there is no secondary education on Canouan.

Keston,  Adero, Sarah, Chessyka, Erasto 

As we travelled to the north of St Vincent the land became more agricultural mainly banana plantations.  Turning off to the volcano then opened up to a true sustainable food production system.

Pigeon Pea, Gungo

What first got my attention was the pigeon pea grown along the boundaries of the farms and through out the fields. Then I noticed fields completely planted out with Pigeon pea and then fields with it all chopped to the ground.

Gungo Field, Main Crop

Green pea (pigeon Pea, Gungo) is a staple of the Caribbean diet and served with rice, added is hot pepper (chilli), onion, garlic, chopped spinach, white cabbage and some coconut milk.  The green pea is truly fitting the Permaculture Principle of at least 3 uses. A short to medium term nitrogen fixer, a chop and drop nitrogen and mulch source to increase organic matter for soil fertility. Third a main crop supplying a revenue for the farmer. 

Chop and Drop

As we drove deeper the monoculture fields of Banana changed to fields of diversity that included cassava, chilli, sweet potato, corn, passionfruit, (Pitahaya) dragon fruit, papaya, orange, grapefruit, lemon, coconut, lemon grass and more. 

Polyculture of  Corn, Cassava, sweet potato, Chilli, Banana, Citrus and more

There was also clear design features incorporated into the farms such as vertical stacking with cassava, passion fruit, dragon fruit, banana, citrus trees and coconut palms all on the same field of abundance.

Vertical Stacking- Cassava, Passionfruit, Banana, Coconut 

Principle of conserving energy (human) evident by the compost pit made in the hole of a fallen tree… no dig compost pit

No Dig Compost Pit 

There was also a guild of passionfruit supported by a papaya and tree trunk.

Passionfruit Papaya Tree

And finally the return of crop residue to the soil. As evident by the banana waste everywhere as a mulch.

Crop Waste Returned as Mulch

I witnessed a productive sustainable large-scale food production system in the middle of nowhere, possible with thought, design, plant selection and local knowledge. I am sure the farmer working this land has never read “Permaculture A Designers Manual “ We all have access to it thanks to Bill Mollison, so why cant we feed ourselves with clean healthy food like this Man? 

Farmer In Background Protecting His Soil To Create Abundance  

Protect our Soils Naturally!!!!