Permaculture Design at A2U2

Questions and Answers: Permaculture Design at Allen Avenue

(May 1, 2014)

At Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church we are growing a community that transforms lives through the power of love. As a church we celebrate diversity, encourage spiritual growth and foster social responsibility as we walk with care on this Earth. We empower our members to share their gifts to build a world of compassion, equality and freedom.


How will a focus on permaculture help us carry out our mission as a congregation?

The permaculture ethic is summed up as "Earth care, people care, fair shares.” Our church community has committed to a three-year goal of bringing our building and grounds into closer alignment with our values using permaculture as a design ethic.

We believe our work together toward this three-year goal will strengthen us as a community and that the resulting improvements to our building and grounds will improve both "people care” and "earth care” in our community.

Equally important, aligning our building and grounds with our values will provide a demonstration to the wider community of who we are, in a way that we expect to attract more members to the A2U2 community.

At the same time we will continue to pursue a range of environmental issues like the blocking of the Tar Sands and Keystone XL Pipelines, recycling, composting, trash reduction, and working on issues related to climate change.

How have our members been involved in working for this goal so far and what are some more ways for us to become involved?

Close to 100 church members participated in permaculture educational events over the winter and 70 members responded to a recent questionnaire ranking their priorities for improvements in building and grounds. A team of 20 members is currently developing overall design for our building and grounds based on member input.

There are and will continue to be many more opportunities for member participation in permaculture activities now and over the next three years.

In simple terms, what is permaculture design?

The word permaculture originally referred to "permanent agriculture," but has come to mean "permanent culture" as understanding grew that social aspects are integral to a truly sustainable system. Permaculture design is a way of bringing together our community, our land and our building into a sensible, resilient and integrated system while meeting our aesthetic, comfort and spiritual needs.

Can we really include bathroom updates, foyer expansion and building air quality under the concept of permaculture?

Today, its not unusual that a buildings location and energy needs are included in permaculture design. Internal building elements are not only part of "people care,” they also interrelate with and need to be integral to our overall plan.

What kind of expertise will we need to draw on to successfully meet our goal?

All of us in the A2U2 community have experience and expertise that will be critical in achieving our goal. Many of us have already begun contributing that expertise in the educational and design phases. We have also called on Lisa Fernandes, organizer of the 1500+ member Portland Maine Permaculture group and Director of its non-profit home, The Resilience Hub, who is a trained facilitator and permaculture designer. Besides her extensive experience at cost effective and resilient approaches, she and her team bring an independent perspective and other potential resources to our effort.

What are A2U2 members’ priorities as identified in the educational sessions and the recent survey?

Energy efficiency improvements, improving the parking lot, improving indoor air quality, updating the bathrooms, renewable energy production and removing invasive plants are some of the issues identified as high priority by our members.

The design team has begun researching options for addressing these issues and projecting the associated costs; when the work is complete they will present their findings to the congregation. The congregation will then decide which priorities we address and in what order.

For more information please contact Clay Atkinson, President of the Board of Trustees, or Harold McWilliams, Chair of the Green Earth Committee.