So you’ve had one child and there’s another one on the way. You decide to move to the suburbs to be a stay-at-home-mother while your partner commutes to the city. You start house-hunting in earnest, your head filled with ideas and ideals: the big garden, growing your own veggies, somewhere safe for the kids to play. But the commuter-belt is almost as expensive as the city and you can’t afford the home of your dreams. In the cold light of day it looks like you’ll be buying a three-bed semi with a small(ish) back garden and a front garden that someone has thoughtfully concreted over to park both their cards. Sound familiar?
David Holmgren (co-creator of the permaculture concept), comments in this essay that the Australian suburbs have become “sterile wastelands, lacking in any true spirit of community, impoverished of local resources, and filled with fearful people whose daily efforts are focussed elsewhere”. The same could be said for the UK’s suburbs and commuter belt areas.
Holmgren suggests implementation of permaculture principles to greatly increase the “sustainability and livability of today’s suburbs”: ensuring food security by growing your own fruit and vegetables and passing on this valuable skill to the next generation; improving your family’s health by gardening for exercise as well as eating super-fresh produce grown in your back yard; saving money by growing your own and not depending on food transported from miles away to feed yourselves; fitting a greenhouse to your home to both insulate your house and increase the growing season; rainwater harvesting and greywater treatment to reuse water; keeping small poultry to eat kitchen scraps as well as laying eggs and providing manure; reclaiming the streets by walking more; and recycling creatively and as much as possible. David offers these and more ideas to improve the sustainability of suburban living in his essay entitled “Retrofitting the Suburbs for Sustainability”.