The power of doing things ourselves using recycled materials: the Permaculture Book of DIY

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Posted Oct 6 2016 by Dave Darby of Lowimpact.org
A bench made from pallets features in the Permaculture Book of DIY

This is a radical new book – not because the ideas within it are going to change the world, but because it contains funky little DIY projects that could make a lot of people think ‘hey, I’ve always wanted one of those, but was put off by the cost – but actually, I could do it myself’.

That might not have sounded too radical a generation or two ago, but in the UK, fewer and fewer people realise that they can actually do things for themselves any more. The vast majority of 21st century jobs in developed countries, from project management, finance, IT and marketing to telesales, driving, shelf-stacking and burger flipping require no real practical skills at all.

solar-dryer

Solar food dryer

This is a very dangerous scenario – I don’t want to get too gloomy here, but if civilisation starts to fall over (and there are a hundred reasons why it might – ecological degradation being the main one), a population without practical skills – notably providing food, shelter and energy – will find things very tough indeed. OK, I’m getting carried away here – civilisation might stumble rather than fall over, and making a bench from pallets wouldn’t get you very far if it did – but obtaining the essentials of life may become that bit harder in a future with 10 billion people, a degraded ecosystem, massive soil loss and increased toxicity.

shave-horse

Shave horse

Right now, however, DIY skills can help us provide for ourselves, and possibly start small businesses to provide for others in our communities. Local resilience is necessary to reduce the distance goods are transported and to reduce reliance on the giant corporations that damage our democracy and our environment. But enough of that – did I mention that these projects are fun too?

pallet-chair

Pallet chair

Another Brucie bonus is that all the projects can be completed using recycled materials (including the cider press, although you’re going to need very new apples to make the cider). Pallets have a starring role in the book – they shake off their cinderella role, often unwanted after a delivery, to take centre stage as benches, solar dryers, raised beds, compost bins or cider presses. You’re going to look at pallets very differently after this – possibly along the lines of ‘how am I going to get that in my car?’. I’ve seen stuff like this on sale for a small fortune. My favourite project was something I’d never seen before – a way of firing pottery without a kiln, using rolled up newspaper! It did say that pottery fired like this might need treating with beeswax to make it waterproof, but what a fantastic idea – great to do with kids too.

wiking-raised-bed

Wicking raised bed

The book is laid out in such a user-friendly and encouraging way that even the least handy among us could end up building something that they didn’t think they were capable of. Just imagine the satisfaction of building your own garden furniture / hot tub / rocket stove / compost bins / natural paints / natural swimming pool / shave horse / wind turbine (from a bicycle wheel) / container garden / pizza oven / solar food dryer / geodesic greenhouse and more – all from recycled materials, and maybe from that stuff that’s filling up your shed because ‘it might come in handy one day’. Well, that day might be here.

hot-tub

Rocket stove heated hot tub

Order the book here.