Eco Design is a large and growing field. Facing a future of rising energy prices and increasingly volatile weather patterns, it is the inevitable future of design thinking as well as the future of business modeling, education, and governance. Those individuals and organizations that embrace eco design as early adopters will be at an advantage and those that put it off will have squandered time and money unnecessarily.
In my experience, eco-design thinking is applied in two distinct ways. The first and most intuitive way involves biological systems. In other words, using lessons learned from observing natural ecosystems to design and build managed ecosystems that serve human needs. The most obvious example of this is an organic garden.
The other way eco-design is used is in non-biological systems, which can include buildings, vehicles, energy production, industrial processes, management, and even governance. Our renovation is a perfect example of eco-design thinking applied to a draughty old New Zealand villa. This column and Project HEAT (Home Energy Awareness Training) are attempts to promote eco-design thinking throughout our city.
Today I’ll stick to biological systems with a focus of food production.
Organic agriculture goes all the way back to the dawn of agriculture because there were no synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides back then. Imagine a time before Monsanto!
Organic growers use eco-design thinking to produce as much food as possible while working with nature, not against it. Their ‘toolbox’ consists of a range of techniques, equipment, compost and on occasion naturally-derived pesticides. The vege plots at our home and the organic techniques we use were recently featured in a film profiling super abundant home gardens throughout New Zealand.
Eco design thinking along with a decade and a half of experience have allowed me to produce abundant healthy kai for our family at very little expense of time, effort and money. This is the type of win-win-win outcome that is almost always provided by eco-design.
Although there is no substitute for experience, one good way to leap frog your own experience is by engaging in well planned experiential learning. While I was developing my organic growing skills I took advantage of local farm tours, I enrolled in workshops, and I practiced…a lot – sometimes 14 hours a day while I was market gardening.
Those days are behind me, but I draw on that experience to manage our low-input/high-productivity gardens, or what I also sometimes call “Lazy gardening.” From my experience, one of the best crops for lazy gardening is garlic. Over the years I have grown and sold many thousands of beautiful and delicious garlic. Growing great garlic is all about working smarter instead of working harder. (See sidebar to learn more.)
Another example of low-input/high productivity food production on our property is the way we grow tomatoes: lots and lots of tomatoes. This year we have enjoyed five months of continuous garden ripened tomatoes from the middle of December through the end of May without a glass house. This abundance was made possible by designing for sun, concentrating fertility, and successive planting. But we’re still three months away from putting tomatoes in the ground so we’ll save that story for another day.
Growing Great Garlic Workshops
Learn how to grow the best garlic in the world. Workshops include the world’s best organic seed garlic for you to take home and two litres top quality organic compost. $15.
21st June, 9–10 am
22nd June, 9–10 am
22nd June, 3-4 pm
Registration and deposit essential. firstname.lastname@example.org, 022 635 0868, 344 5013