Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Living for free: a community thriving by recycling other people's waste

'Recycling' has become something of an empty phrase these days, with much of what we discard being 'down-cycled' rather than properly re-used or re-purposed.

So it's very refreshing to hear about a community that not only meets its own needs through recycling, but even gives away surplus from their activities to the surrounding community...

 Our recent trip to the Plukrijp community made a strong impression on us. Situated in Schriek, Belgium, this small farm has developed into a thriving community hub over the last few years and offers solutions in various aspects of Permaculture design. Most notable, however, is the way this community lives at virtually no cost. Around 4000 people pass through here a year in addition to a 15 strong community, and the running costs have been reduced to gas for cooking and water rates!

Permaculture livestock

The chickens and geese are kept in netted pens joined by hundreds of meters of netted tunnels that run the entire perimeter of the fields. Frank has designed this in to ensure weeds do not encroach from the neighboring land and has overplanted the tunnels with Jerusalem artichoke, berries and other fodder, creating a multifunctional system producing fodder and yielding crops whilst keeping edges of the field clean and allowing the birds much greater freedom. Good design!

On vast racking around the freezers there is 200l of olive oil (a year out of date), jars of pickles and preserves made from the farms crops, as well as all manner of organic wholefoods, the oldest of which are 20 years out of date! And yet still safely consumed by the Plukrijp inhabitants.

We leave amazed at the potential to engage with surrounding communities in this multifunctional and beneficial way. This is certainly the most organized and shining example of valuing the marginal in this regard I have heard about or experienced, and I depart grateful for the possibilities Plukrijp represents.

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