Permaculture and Sustainable Food Systems in Urban Areas


Permaculture and Sustainable Food Systems in Urban Areas




Permaculture and Sustainable Food Systems in Urban Areas

Permaculture in Urban Areas

Permaculture is a scientific and artistic method of designing and constructing human settlement that meets the basic needs of any given community. The form of design and construction ensures that it creates a sustainable environment that offers the particular community healthy food, clean water, energy, adequate shelter, and a sense of community. Moreover, permaculture offers a design option that actively regenerates the depleting biodiversity and natural resources with an artistic twist especially in urban areas where the image is very crucial. Hence, the primary goal of permaculture is to create a society that fosters sustainability while at the same time offering healthy habitat that facilitates co-existence of all living form in the ecosystem. Therefore, most urban areas across the globe are paying particular importance to permaculture especially in designs to ensure that they offer a long-term abundance of healthy life for all.

Permaculture began in the 1970s in Australia and spread to other parts of the world including Canada where cities like Alberta, Quebec, and Ontario have embraced it as a way of achieving sustainability especially as most people now live in urban areas (The Urban Farmer, 2015). In some of the cities in Canada, people have undergone permaculture training aimed at creating new communities or improving those they live in as a way of gaining sustainability. For instance, one of the most notable community and advocators of permaculture in London, Ontario is the Spirit of the Earth, the Living Centre & Living Arts Institute which was founded in 1983 and incorporates the spiritual and ecological education to influence the people (Kelly, 2017). The center is devoted to educating and creating herbs and vegetable gardens, orchards, edible medicine trails, and forest gardens in different locations of Ontario as an initiative of creating a sustainable and healthy community. Moreover, across the globe majority of the cities use the same criteria to create communities that seek to restore the glory of nature diminished by human settlement and development. According to recent studies more than half of the world population will be living in urban areas by the year 2050 which makes it paramount to design and build towns and cities that will create conducive living environments for all (McCarthy, 2017). Permaculture is especially critical for urban areas for they tend to require a lot of resources like food, water, energy, and other natural resources to operate at optimum. Therefore, unless the world crafts and creates communities and cities that can regenerate the resources at the rate they are utilized there will be much competition for limited resources and as such the need for permaculture.

Permaculture is very beneficial in urban areas and should be incorporated in all city plans across the globe as a way of creating and maintaining sustainable city life that does not alter the ecosystem dramatically. In the same way, urban areas drain energy, they are also in a position to create self-sustaining systems that conserves all forms of resources preventing their depletion. Hence, implementation of permaculture designs allows for the actualization of principles that facilitate the production of energy, recycling of resources and expanding a city’s capacity to sustain its population. Implementation of permaculture designs in the towns would ensure that the cities built provide for means to generate and recycle the resources needed; thereby reducing the strain put on rural areas and natural resources (McCarthy, 2017). The strain relief on rural resources ensures that the ecosystems such as forests and water catchment areas recover and are restored from their presently degraded form. The restoration and recovery would further guarantee the capacity of the global ecosystems’ capability to sustain all living things and reducing the scramble for the limited and depleting resources offered by nature.

Moreover, another benefit of permaculture is the use of natural energy sources and other natural processes to run the day-to-day activities in the city. Urban areas tend to be hotter than the surrounding outskirts because of the overall lack of trees and vegetation that leads to the retention of the solar heat. Therefore, it causes the hot days to be scorching while the cold ones are colder than usual which in turn; demands more energy for cooling and heating systems which consume more energy. The Living Center has intensified its actions to increase the vegetation cover and number of trees in the urban areas in attempts to cool the air and reduce the solar heat retention (Kelly, 2017). The move reduces or enables retention of heat during hot and cold weather respectively while at the same time lessen the amount of energy consumed by city residents. Moreover, communities in the urban areas have embraced permaculture by decreasing the number of pollutant fuels and power sources and substituting them with clean energy like the use of solar panels in their homes (The Urban Farmer, 2015). The use of solar panels and cultivation of edible forest and vegetation is a major step in ensuring that the ecosystem is preserved and its ability to accommodate the growing population is upheld which improves the quality of life that people live.

However, just like permaculture has benefits, its implementation, especially in urban areas, is faced with challenges that inhibit its success. For instance, of the greatest challenges is the unavailability of the necessary information to rehabilitate the urban areas into permaculture appropriate environment. The lack of necessary information has been credited with the creation of communities that do not meet the required standards thus failing to solve the issue. Additionally, poverty levels are relatively high in urban areas, and as such, it is financially challenging to implement some of the permaculture designs as they require resources and commitment to be successful. Therefore, the people may be committed to having a better life but lack the financial means to implement the designs that will offer a long-term abundance of healthy living.

Therefore, permaculture is very crucial especially in urban areas as it gives immeasurable benefits to both the rural and urban residents. It plays a major role in ensuring that cities erect systems and designs that guarantee relief for natural resources. Some of the benefits of permaculture are the restoration of degraded natural resources like forest and catchment areas as well as recycling and regeneration of energy in the urban areas. Despite the challenges, permaculture has proven it is an efficient manner to ensure that the ecosystems of the world are protected and allowed time to recover in order to sustain the healthy habitats for all living things.

Ideal Sustainable Food System

A food system is the path that food takes from the farm to the plate and includes all the activities that occur between planting to the consumption of the aid food. The food system also includes the economics of food production, food security and sustainability, the degree of the food wasted, and the effects of food production on the natural environment. Food systems are influenced by economic, social, political, and environmental context that dictate the sustainability of the food supply in any given community. In rural areas, the food systems are much simpler than in urban areas as they do not produce their food. Hence, for a city to have an ideal food system, they have to actively rely on some conventional and alternative food systems. Edmonton which is the capital of Alberta Province in Canada has adopted a strategy that is geared at creating a perfect food system for the city and its residents.

A sustainable food system is one that delivers food and nutrition security for all by incorporating economic, social and environmental factors to ensure that the food security of future generations is not compromised or jeopardized. In any food system, the primary role is to make sure that regardless of the amount of food produced in any given area, the residents and future generations will have a way of accessing food. For instance, in Alberta, much food is grown as the province is the leading exporter of agricultural products in Canada which means that Edmonton and other cities in Alberta do not suffer the risk of food insecurity. The food costs in Edmonton are relatively low as compared to most cities in the world which make it an ideal food system from a glance (Lipton, 2010). However, all matters considered, an ideal food system incorporates all aspects of food production, aftermath, and effects on the environment among others. The seemingly ideal food system fails to take into account the health effects of having cheap food like obesity and environmental factors like soil erosion and pollution which could jeopardize the food security in the long run (Key, 2017). Therefore, to ensure that the food system is ideal, a project called ‘fresh: Edmonton’s food & urban agriculture strategy’ was designed to warrant that Edmonton has a sustainable and ideal food system that would weather all challenges (The Food and Urban Agriculture Advisory Committee, 2012). One of the most prominent ideas was to enact an integrated planning approach that brings together and improves all the systems involved in ensuring food security. The integrated plan would only be achieved by sourcing all the activities from local sources and people in Edmonton. The ideal system would be achieved by sourcing food from locally owned businesses in the city, create urban farms in local areas where the majority of the jobs are located as well as concentrate the food sector as close to home as possible. Most of the food available in Edmonton is sourced from producers in and around the city and people can get their food from community organized food markets, grocery stores, restaurants, food trucks and other fresh food organization from the outskirts of the city.

The food production in Edmonton city is divided into categories depending on the location of the food production method. For instance in the food can be produced in rooftop, community, and backyard gardens, orchards as well as edible landscaping in the parks. Food processing in Edmonton is either in a commercial or community scale through kitchens that transform the raw material into market-ready or value-added products. The food is transported and distributed either to retail or wholesale stores and stowed dry, cold or frozen depending on its durability. Food consumption in Edmonton involves raw food purchased from stores to be prepared at home or from food establishments like restaurants (The Food and Urban Agriculture Advisory Committee, 2012). Moreover, the government has put up waste disposal systems that ensure proper treatment and disposal of food waste without polluting the soil or other means of food production.

The food system in Edmonton has been created to be ideal through a series of strategies implemented by the government to safeguard the food security in the city. Food is produced in urban gardens and public edible landscaping within the city and its outskirts. Additionally, it is distributed, stored, consumed, and disposed of in a series of systems that guaranteed sustainability for the future generations especially by avoiding pollution.



Kelly, M. (2017). The Living Centre: Permaculture in Canada. Retrieved from The Living Centre:

Key, K. (2017, February 14). Envision an Ecologically Sound, Socially Just Food System for Alberta. Retrieved from Alberta Food Matters:

Lipton, B. (2010). Food Security for Edmonton: Is it really something we should care about? Edmonton: Becky Lipton Research & Consulting Ltd.

McCarthy, R. (2017, February 8). Why Our Urban Areas Need Permaculture: The Problem is the Solution! Retrieved from Permaculture Research Institute:

The Food and Urban Agriculture Advisory Committee. (2012). Fresh: Edmonton’s food & urban agriculture strategy’. Edmonton: The Food and Urban Agriculture Advisory Committee.

The Urban Farmer. (2015). Permaculture in Canada. Retrieved from Food Matters Manitoba:







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