or Energy Accounting
The Principles of Permaculture Design have evolved over the years, but they are firmly based on the sustainable use of energy.
Hence Energy Accounting. (Total energy inputs/outputs including embodied energy)
It sounds very grand, doesn't it?
And if done scientifically, as in Odum & Odum's seminal text Energy Basis for Man & Nature it can be both daunting and confusing.
But once the basic principles are understood, it is as simple to do a mental audit of the energy involved in producing a meal, as it is to produce a balanced menu off the top of your head once the basic principles of nutrition have been integrated into the way you think about food.
The simplest way to get the hang of energy inputs and outputs is to make 'Mind Maps'. You can just use pencil and A4 paper, but it's more fun to have a large sheet, like the back of an old poster, and lots of coloured felt pens. Put your subject in the middle, then put all the inputs and outputs that occur to you somewhere on the map. If you want to group them in particular areas, fine, but it's not a good idea to start making connections at this stage. Give it a few days, with the map stuck on the wall somewhere, and invite everyone to have a go. Eventually you can group things together, and put in the connections. Then you'll probably want to make a more rational version.
In doing this, we are not attempting to assess the exact amount of energy involved in each process - just to plot the complex and multiple processes involved in getting (for instance) a refreshing cuppa tea to our parched lips.
Once you've got the hang of doing this with your basic foods, try it with other household items.
Especially some of the commonly used disposables, for instance:
Sobering, isn't it?
The next step is to think about alternatives, and to go through the same process with them.
You may get some surprises, even some shocks.
For instance, gardening may be organic, but is it truly sustainable?
Another thing you will soon discover is something we all have to come to terms with:-
~ There are NO perfect solutions~
We can only do the best we can in any given circumstances.
See also CARBON ACCOUNTING
a recent (2020) offering from the ABC Science Unit.
Includes a link to their Carbon Counter.
See 'The Permaculture Journey - Part Three - Energy Accounting
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