Saving the Planet through Permaculture….and Zoning Laws/Building Codes?

Right now on this planet there are thousands of Permaculture warriors prepared to regenerate the Earth’s ecosystems and feed the world abundantly. Imagine if suddenly it was possible for a land owner or small farmer to get a legal permit for a ‘Low Impact Sustainable Development’ (LISD) on their land – an EcoVillage. Imagine an agency that worked with local government to standardize a framework and criteria that had each community development plan begin with permaculture design? Imagine this agency being an employment hub for local/regional permaculture practitioners.

Right now this is what the Rocky Mountain Sustainability Center (RMSC) has been working to create on the Western Slope of Colorado (US). Many people do not know that land use zoning and building codes in the United States are under local government (county) jurisdiction. Traditionally local governments have adopted State or Federal building codes for ease and minimal red tape.

This is why a town can either approve or ban raising chickens within city limits or tell folks in a neighborhood that they cannot grow food in their yards. It is also why the county can come in and red tag a strawbale or cob structure as illegal and even bulldoze it down. It is also why it is within our capacity to assist and facilitate changes in our local communities by working with our local government planning officials to introduce LISD community development frameworks.

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The team at RMSC intends to establish the first agency in the United States that can provide a much needed bridge between land owners/small farmers and legal EcoVillage development. For over a decade long term strategic planning has been quietly making inroads towards this goal and in 2008 when the Lammas EcoVillage project in Wales achieved planning approval for their LISD a major precedent was set – as well as the much needed criteria and protocol for duplication. A framework was established that could be imported and adapted into any country – and that framework has permaculture design at the foundation of the planning process.

Since 2008 the ‘how to’ step by step strategy has consisted of many parameters and criteria that would lend itself to the success of the overall mission, but the most important step was to establish an education center in a region that had the perfect geo-political environment. It was important that the region be primarily rural and have strong conservative, yet open minded community members. The team happily discovered that the universe has its own plans that run parallel to this regenerative agenda and in 2014 a legacy was revealed that could be honored and built upon.

All movements have foundations built upon powerful predecessors and their work. The late actor/environmentalist Dennis Weaver was one such pioneer within the sustainability movement and in the late 80’s he broke ground literally by getting a permit for a 7000 square foot ‘Earth Ship’ in Ouray County Colorado. An Earth Ship is built of recycled tires and other materials whose designs originated from alternative building architect Michael Reynolds. The building was granted a permit under ‘experimental’ and Dennis Weaver demonstrated that we can live in low impact luxury.

Earthship. Build a house out of tires and dirt!

He and his wife Gerry had a strong vision and commitment towards future generations and they named their home ‘Sunridge EcoRanch’.

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Dennis Weaver passed away in 2006 and his beloved wife Gerry just made the transition to join him in loving reunion on April 26 2016. Their home is currently on the market and a strong community group alongside RMSC is actively fundraising to acquire the property and place it into a ‘Community Land Trust’ to forever preserve this historic sacred place.

The vision plan includes establishing an International Permaculture Training Center that will partner and ally with other education centers around the world with a specific focus on L.I.S.D. development and working with local government to create a solid foundation for long term land based communities. RMSC in partnership with the A.N.G.E.L. Inter-governmental Organization intends to build permaculture bridges to government officials globally.

Climate Change will be driving many people from coastal areas globally and rural areas will not be able to be developed using traditional urban designs and resource consumption will be a serious issue. EcoVillage development will allow new communities to be built that do not exceed the carrying capacity of the land and will provide new models for environmentally responsible development.

The first step in any project plan is for a complete permaculture study and design to be done on the land. From there the planners can work with the permaculture practitioner to decide building placements and zone orientations.

Imagine small farms, ranches, and families being able to obtain a legal permit to build an EcoVillage on their land through a framework that allows not just growing healthy abundant food but also entrepreneurial cottage industries that can strengthen local economies and provide local jobs. Imagine governments providing support and funding for permaculture education centers globally with special focus on addressing long term humanitarian needs and regional environmental issues.

And at the heart of this new system is the permaculture practitioner who has meaningful work helping communities design their EcoVillages and a place to call ‘home’ that is designed from the ground up on a permaculture foundation. This is not whimsical imaginings, but practical and very doable goals for the permaculture community to work towards. For more information visit and

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ReGenesis Sustainable Development Agency

The mission of the ReGenesis Sustainable Development Agency is to import the criteria and protocols established by the Lammas EcoVillage in Wales, UK into the United States.

The UK has the strictest building and land use codes/laws in the world due to the high population density and limited square miles of land that comprises the UK. In 2008 the local planning department in Pembrokeshire, Wales, approved the first Low Impact Sustainable Development settlement setting a precedent which has now been adopted throughout the UK. Pembrokeshire’s planning policy on L.I.S.D is a groundbreaking policy which sets out a new approach to sustainable development in the countryside.

The criteria and protocols established through the UK’s Policy 52 and TAN 6 allows for multiple families/individuals to apply for an ‘EcoVillage’ permit by following specific guidelines that require such low impact communities (EcoVillages) to adhere to eight primary application requirements.

ReGenesis Sustainable Development Agency will serve as an intermediary entity between the local government community development department and groups who apply for this new type of zoning and development permits.

The agency will translate and adapt the criteria and guidelines to fit the rural economic and development needs of host region/county and assist and guide applicants through the planning and application process. The agency will also relieve the fiscal burden upon county government by providing oversight and inspections of developments.

The host county where the agency will establish will be the first county to approve Low Impact Sustainable Development in the United States and once adopted other rural counties/towns throughout Colorado and the U.S. can easily establish their own agencies and duplicate the criteria.

The first agency will be established with the Rocky Mountain Sustainability Center which will be an education center that facilitates applicants hands on learning with the world’s leading green builders, alternative energy professionals, permaculture designers, and organic farming experts.

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Darlene Cavallara – Director Rocky Mountain Sustainability Center Colorado

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