May 10 2012

From Green Thumb to White House: University of Massachusetts Permaculture Makes Big Strides

Student-led project wins White House Challenge

College lawns are not just for Frisbees anymore.

The UMass Permaculture Initiative snagged top honors at the White House Campus Champions of Change Challenge this March 2012, beating out 1,400 applicants and 15 finalists in a social media voting campaign. The project, founded in October 2010, is just one of many efforts in a growing movement toward sustainable and ecologically responsive landscape management.

The university’s original permaculture design was a no-dig landscape. Instead of removing lawn, the group relied on layers of compost, mulch, and cardboard – saves time, saves labor for other projects down the line. Over time, materials decomposed and provided a healthy foundation for plantings. The edible landscape now provides over 1,000 pounds of produce to the campus cafeterias, contributing to the university’s long-term sustainability goal of adding local food to the dining program. Talk about a transformation. Permaculture, a comprehensive landscape design philosophy, models itself after natural ecosystem principles, paying careful attention to ecological diversity and elemental patterns. UMass Amherst, a leader in the field, boasts over 500 fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, and herbs on its quarter-acre plot. In less than two years over 1,000 students have participated or contributed to the project.

Since its White House recognition, UMass Amherst Permaculture will continue its educational mission: illustrating the possibilities for permaculture as a contemporary design strategy viable for any location and budget. The group plans to spread its knowledge later this spring, hosting the Permaculture Your Campus Conference on June 20-22, 2012. Attendees will learn the steps needed to build coalitions, create an action plan, and market permaculture projects to the powers that be. After all, some people need a little extra convincing about the connection between their lawn and lunch.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Lillian Mathews

Lillian Mathews graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Environmental Studies (Honors) and a focus on Food Systems and Urban Sustainability. She has designed and implemented an arts-based gardening site at a neighborhood center in Providence, Rhode Island, and has completed work in ecological planning and design, sustainable agriculture, and urban planning. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read more at

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2012 at 10:06 am and is filed under Education and Careers, Internet Marketing, Land Use, Landscape Architecture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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