What is Permaculture

permaculture, principles, ethics, circular, sustainable

Permaculture was created by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid-1970’s as a response to the pollution and destruction of the land and its natural resources. It is a philosophy they developed from observing nature and utilizing the wisdom of natural systems. In Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison, he defines permaculture as “… a design system for creating sustainable human environments. […} The aim is to create systems that are ecologically sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute, and are therefore sustainable in the long term.”


 Permaculture Ethics

Permaculture Ethics
Care of Earth, Care of People, Fair Share

The foundation of permaculture is built on three ethics:  care of earth, care of people, and fair share.  To illustrate how the ethics are applied, we can consider the act of planting a pear tree.  Planting the tree cares for the earth by creating a niche ecosystem, exchanging carbon dioxide and oxygen, shading the ground, feeding the worms and soil organisms, supplying pollen for bees, habitat for animals, and countless other benefits.  Planting the pear tree cares for people by providing fruit to eat, shade, the aesthetic beauty of the tree, and pruned wood can be used for mulch or energy.  Fair share means we think of others and only take what we need, leaving enough for other people and future generations to enjoy.  Planting near a neighbors yard or public area, allows others to access fruit and share in your bounty, generating good will.  Fair share includes maintaining the health of the tree so that it lives a long and fruitful life to supply fruit for the next homeowner or generation.


Permaculture Principles

Permaculture Principles
Permaculture Principles


There are also twelve permaculture design principles that evolved from 'systems ecology' and create the framework for designing permaculture systems.  Incorporating vermicomposting (worm composting) into your kitchen or garden practices principles #5, #6, and #9.

Of course this is just the beginning.  Once your eyes open to see the amazing power of permaculture, you won't be able to imagine any other way of thinking or designing.


We look forward to seeing you at one of our classes where we will explore all aspects of Permaculture.

Suburban Permaculture

People have become increasingly concerned with the resiliency of our food, water, energy and economic systems and are looking for personal and community security.  This has propelled a global permaculture movement that is permeating the United States and has made its way to the Midwest.  Permaculture has traditionally been used to design systems for large land areas, but recently people have discovered how the principles can be applied to any piece of land or living situation.

The suburbs have been maligned for being wasteful with resources, and they are very wasteful, but since we cannot undo the suburbs, we have to figure out how to reduce their resource consumption.  Suburban permaculture is the answer!  We can apply permaculture ethics, principles, and design concepts to the suburban landscape to transform them into productive self-sustaining communities rich in social capital, and which are economically and environmentally resilient.

The Resiliency Institute is uniquely qualified to educate the suburban population on the application of permaculture, because this is where we live and work!  We can help you detox from your lawn addiction, by designing an edible forest garden with a water management feature where you can relax and harvest your delicious fruits, nuts and vegetables.  Share your harvest with friends and neighbors, invite them to help you preserve the harvest, and enjoy a harvest meal together - all great ways to foster community.  Your children will experience a new environment rich in learning opportunities and may surprise you by eating their veggies.

Visit our course calendar.

Sustainable Living

solar, rain barrel, solar oven, clothes line, passive solar

Sustainable living is about getting the most from limited resources.  It is about living abundantly while caring for the earth, caring for people, and sharing with others now and into the future.  Once you make the philosophical shift to applying these ethics to your life, you will gradually change your behavior until you are enjoying a sustainable life.  There is no ideal or end, we are always observing and learning and changing.

To begin, you can think about one thing that you do daily and put it through the lens of sustainability.  Maybe you get coffee to go every day.  A small step could be to use a reusable thermos instead of getting a disposable cup.  The next step could be choosing a Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance grown coffee bean.  Another step towards sustainability might be to walk or ride your bike to get the coffee.  This process can continue until you are satisfied that your daily coffee routine is sustainable.  What often happens is that you realize all the benefits you have gained - reduced cost, since most coffee shops offer a discount for using your own cup, better fitness now that you are using your own power to get your coffee instead of a car, and you feel good because you are helping preserve the rainforest and ensuring the coffee farmers receive a fair, living wage.

Many of our courses and activities will be about sustainable living, so you have come to the right place to learn.  Click here to visit our Course Calendar and register for your first course to begin your journey.

As we are developing programming, we welcome comments on types of courses (classrooms, hands-on demonstrations, design), site visits, collaborative partnerships, or other supportive comments.


Edible Wild Plant classThe Resiliency Institute offers evening and weekend classes, workshops, and certification courses. Classes are taught by knowledgeable and experienced regional instructors with class sizes ranging from 6 -30 attendees. Whether you are a novice or an expert, you will find a class that is right for you.

Most education courses, unless otherwise noted, are taught at the Clow Education Center on The Conservation Foundation's McDonald Farm at 10S404 Knoch Knolls Road in Naperville, IL.




permaculture, principles, ethics, circular, sustainable, icons, text
Permaculture Principles


The word “permaculture” was coined and popularized in the mid 70′s by David Holmgren, a young Australian ecologist, and his associate / professor, Bill Mollison. It is a contraction of “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture.”

Permaculture is a design system based on observing nature for developing ecological landscapes, lifestyles and communities. "Permaculture is not a discipline in itself but rather a design approach based on connecting different disciplines, strategies, and techniques." (Hemenway, Gaia's Garden)




Permaculture Design Certification

Peter Bane PDC water levelThe Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course is a training program that utilizes the teachings of Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Design System. The goal is to achieve a basic working understanding in ecologically-based planning, site design and management. A PDC provides a comprehensive introduction to Permaculture principles, applications and design practices as first set out by Permaculture founder, Bill Mollison. The PDC meets a common international standard as a foundational course for Permaculture practitioners and teachers. At The Resiliency Institute, the course is taught by Peter Bane, Rhonda Baird, & Keith Johnson over 3 extended weekends for a total of 11 days and 88 hrs.


Edible Wild Plants Certification

Pat Armstrong-Suburban Prairie_TRI 2013Open your eyes to the world of foraging with our Edible Wild Plants Certificate. Each season a five to six week course is offered to teach you how to identify plants, what edible wild plants to look for, what part of the plant to harvest; how to harvest it, prepare it, and eat it. You will learn to identify over 200 species of edible wild plants from handling actual specimens and from seeing them in their natural environments.

The Edible Wild Plants Certificate courses (Taste the Trees, Graze on Greens, Feast on Flowers, & Sup on Shrubs) are taught both in a classroom and through site visits to various public and private locations to provide a comprehensive experience of the plants.  To earn your certificate, you are required to take all four courses and pass four seasonal exams (using your notes and books) to demonstrate that you can identify edible (and poisonous) wild plants successfully.  These courses will be offered each year, so if you miss one, you can take it the following year.  Certificate courses are open to everyone, whether or not you’re pursuing the certificate.

Students prepare recipes during each course using edible wild plants to demonstrate their new knowledge and to share with classmates. A full year of recipes are compiled into a recipe book and given to each certificate recipient during the annual graduation ceremony.



Water bath canned salsa
Water bath canned salsa

Reskilling is learning the skills we need to become self-sufficient and resilient as individuals and communities during a time of economic and climatic change. These skills span the spectrum of land management; food production, preservation and preparation; sustainable living; community building; water management; renewable energy; and ecological building. Classes can be viewed by category or date on our course calendar.

TRI Co-op

As an educational benefit corporation, our mission is to provide a forum for people to learn about permaculture, a philosophy for designing resilient systems for lifestyle, land, and community.  A cooperative is the ideal structure to bring together a group of people with a diversity of wisdom, skills and character from which we can all benefit.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about The Resiliency Institute and the work that we will be doing is invited to attend our meetings.  Meetings will be hosted in the Chicago suburbs at public and private venues that encourage conversation, learning, sharing, and community building.