In permaculture, the garden is often viewed as the heart of operations. But a kitchen can be just as important, if not more important than a garden, in creating a healthy, happy, eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable way of life. Just as we bring food in from the garden, so we should bring in a permaculture approach to our kitchens.
Permaculture is not just for your polytunnel and other growing areas. This design system can be imported to shape and dictate practices in any room of your home.
Observation & Interaction
While we are more used to seeing permaculture design methodology used in relation to land and food production areas, these theories and techniques can also inform kitchen design and use. In designing a permaculture garden or farm, one of the first stages is simply to observe and interact. The same should be true of good kitchen design.
If you are building a new kitchen from scratch, or merely considering how to improve the function and sustainability of the current structure and fittings, it can be helpful to begin by taking a step back and considering all the different sectors which will influence the space.
In permaculture, when we talk about sectors what we are essentially considering is how energy will enter and move through the space. We should consider the sun, the wind, water, and also human energy, and the paths we take as we move around a kitchen.
Sunlight is, perhaps, the most important sector for any room in a home. Consider the angle of the sun through a window or windows throughout each day and over the course of the year. Consider the places and materials onto which that sunlight falls, and how well the energy from the sun is stored by those materials.
An understanding of air movement can help you to develop a natural ventilation system that can also help to cool your home. By careful placement of internal fittings and fixtures, you may be able to keep down draughts, or create a cooling breeze simply by opening a window in the summer months.
While rain will not fall inside our kitchens as it does in our gardens, we can also still consider water flow when designing our interior spaces. New kitchen designers could consider installing a rainfall filtration system to feed a kitchen sink, while even those attached to a mains water supply could opt for a sustainable grey-water harvesting system, and use water from a sink waste to water indoors plants, or to flush a downstairs toilet.
Design For People
In any kitchen design, it is important to remember to take account of the human elements of the system – the kitchen users – any members of the household. As individuals, we may all use our kitchens in somewhat different ways – individual characters, practices, likes and dislikes should, of course, be taken into account. But there are certain things that will always be true of human occupants – in some ways, we are all the same.
Human beings tend to take the path of least resistance. We will usually walk the shortest route between two points. When designing a permaculture kitchen, think about the most natural routes that will be taken through the space, and work to disrupt and occlude these paths as little as possible. Think about the patterns of movement and try to design accordingly.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.