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Growing a Model Sustainable Campus – Help UMass Permaculture Documentary Part 3 of 3 Go Viral

What does a model sustainable campus actually look like?

A single action that sends a ripple effect into the
world. And each day we throw thousands of stones
into the vast sea around us.

Many people I talk with are well aware that we live in a time of enormous global transformation. It may feel scary or depressing at times, especially with the constant messages we receive from the media, education system, and our peers about the tragic state of the world. But it is also a time to be extremely hopeful and positive about the direction that we are heading.

We live in a time when there are an unprecedented number of non-for-profit and for-profit organizations whose central mission is ecological, social, financial, and cultural regeneration. More people are working to heal the Earth and our human-designed systems than ever before in the history of the planet. There is more money and energy being directed into remediation and positive transformation every single day, and this trend is only speeding up. Countless individuals and groups from all over are ‘waking up’ and beginning to shift their ways. How can you not be hopeful?

How to Inspire Great Change:

Inspiring change has been my mission since I had my own personal ‘wake up’ about 7 years ago. I always think of the analogy of a stone being thrown into water; a single action that sends a ripple effect into the world. And each day we throw thousands of stones into the vast sea around us (a variety of shapes and sizes – some actions are larger than others!) Sometimes it takes more than one person to move a single stone, because the desired ripple effect is more than one person can create. This is how I would describe the past two years of my life, working with a remarkable team of individuals called the UMass Permaculture Commitee. Our collective mission is to transform the UMass Amherst campus into more of an ecologically and socially sustainable community. This, we hope, will inspire more colleges and universities, towns and cities, and all communities to adopt permaculture and sustainable design principles into their Master Planning.

A powerful video can sometimes be a catalyst for this kind of big change, and the goal of UMass Permaculture and our entire project has been to inspire direct action from the start.

When UMass Permaculture was born in 2010, the proposed budget included funds for a series of documentary videos that would raise awareness and excitement about this unique campus sustainability project. Part 1 was released in March, 2011 and currently has over 34,000 YouTube views. We saw this first video help spark the global college/university campus permaculture movement, and during the summer of 2012 it became much clearer to us how fast this movement was spreading. (Parts 1 and 2 of our video series can be found at bottom of this post.)

On June 20-22, 2012 we hosted the first Permaculture Your Campus Conference with keynote speaker Frances Moore Lappe. The turnout: over 60 individuals from 26 campuses, 11 states, and as far away as Honduras showed up to UMass Amherst to learn about and discuss permaculture in a campus setting. We think this is still only the beginning of what is possible. Our Part 3/3 documentary video – “Growing a Model Sustainable Campus” is now officially released and we want to see this video go viral to continue growing this important global movement.

Please Watch & Share to Inspire More Sustainable Global Transformation:

This new 5-minute permaculture video illustrates how students, staff, faculty, and the local community are transforming UMass Amherst into a model sustainable campus. We hope that you’ll consider posting this page to social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and e-mailing it to family, friends and colleagues.  

If we achieve 50,000 views by September 15, UMass Permaculture and sponsors will donate fruit and nut trees and complete a permaculture design for four local schools! This is part of our vision to co-create more edible, ecological, and educational landscapes throughout the Western, MA community.

Looking back to the original subtitle of this post – I want to address whether I see UMass Amherst as a model sustainable campus. Personally, I think we still have a long way to go, as do all campuses that service a huge population. But it is clear to me that UMass is taking gigantic steps toward achieving ecological and cultural regeneration each day. If we can continue growing our enthusiasm, inclusivity, passion, and support, nothing can stop our vision of creating a truly sustainable campus. It is your support and enthusiasm that we need at this time – to help the vision spread to more campuses, towns and cities worldwide.

Thank you all for being a big part of the positive global change, and for living at this hopeful and exciting time in human history. I think this video can be inspiration to others and our goal is to see it spread far and wide. Together, let’s create the sustainable, just and peaceful world that all of envision.


Ryan Harb, MS, is a certified permaculture designer, instructor, LEED Accredited Professional, and Permaculture Academic Program Coordinator at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has spoken internationally about converting underused or abused landscapes into edible, ecological, and regenerative ecosystems and has a passion for helping shift our culture toward more sustainable ways of living. ,


  1. Ryan,
    Can students study permaculture as a part of their degrees at UMass (earn a PDC certificate or more)? I’d love to hear more about the academic side of things at UMass, and haven’t been able to find that info online. I organize and teach a permaculture program at a small liberal arts university in Colorado and am hoping you will run the permaculture at college campuses conference in 2013.

  2. This is fabulous…..and must happen at every university and school campus in the world. We are setting up a permaculture eco village in the eastern cape South Africa. We would love to link up with like minded individuals and groups. We are starting a WOOFER farm to implement all the hard work ahead of us. So if you can spread the word for students who want to travel and experience our country we would appreciate the support. We are HONEYVILLE NATURE RESERVE AND CENTRE OF BIODIVERSITY? See Thank you John Barrett

  3. @Jason Great question! We are in the very beginning stages of designing and coordinating that academic program, with a lot of input from more experienced permaculture designers plus feedback from students, faculty, staff and local community members. I envision that we’ll open up input to the wider permaculture community as this program begins a more thorough design process. We have had permaculture classes through UMass for the past 8 years or so, and we’ll have a website up describing this very soon. Currently we have:

    -An Intro. to Permaculture class being taught by Lisa DePiano (3 credits, meets twice weekly at UMass, not a PDC)

    -2 local PDC’s being taught this fall in affiliation with UMass (at locations off-campus. Students can earn 3 Indep. Study credits by taking a PDC. Instructors: Kay Cafasso, Lisa DePiano & Jonathan Bates)

    -UMass Permaculture Committee – a 6 credit (2 semester) independent study for 6-8 students who are interviewed and selected to learn as well as facilitate the on-campus permaculture designed gardens, events, and to create new projects that can further raise awareness about permaculture on campus.

    -Permaculture Practicum – a 3 credit practicum course with Susanne Hale that focuses on developing a fruit and nut CSA.

    -There is an online permaculture course (not a PDC) also taught by Lisa DePiano during the spring semester.

    -Finally, there are 2 additional PDC’s taught at Sirius Community by Kay Cafasso – one in the spring through Sowing Solutions and one in the summer with Living Routes.

    As you can see, there’s quite the number of opportunities to get a baseline knowledge of what is permaculture and to earn a PDC through UMass. But an entire academic program will take some careful design and planning by a lot of knowledgable people, which we have many of in Western, Massachusetts! Stay tuned for updates but understand that we’re intentionally not rushing this so as to improve the chances of making it a successful program that many in the global permaculture community will be proud of.

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