Nine things you need to know about the Lush Spring Prize

Get to grips with the Lush Spring Prize 2017 with this comprehensible breakdown of the award.

1. What is the Lush Spring Prize?

The 2017 Lush Spring Prize is a £200,000 prize fund, which will be awarded at a three day event in May to reward projects around the world which are working towards social and environmental regeneration. The prize sum will be shared across 11 awards and four different prize categories.

2. What were the four prize categories and what does each one mean?

The Spring Prize is all about learning from, celebrating and connecting projects that are working to make a difference socially and ecologically. Whether it‘s a new or slightly more established project, the Prize’s aim is to enable applicants to boost the positive work that they’re already doing. The prize fund is for groups working in harmony with nature to revive damaged social and natural environments, who can strategically use extra money or support. The categories are as follows:

Intentional Projects: For individuals, communities, groups and organisations. There are  five prize winners, each winning a sum of £10,000 to help young projects form a strong foundation through knowledge sharing.

Young Projects: For groups or organisations that are one to five years old. Young groups and organisations which have a proven track record have applied, seeking more funding in order to expand or develop. There are three prize winners, each being awarded £25,000.

Established Projects: For groups or organisations that have demonstrated successful and inspirational work over more than five years. The fund is aimed at helping these organisations spread the word of their work to inspire more people. There are two prize winners, each being awarded £25,000. This prize money could go towards things such as outreach, mentoring, or hosting visits from other projects.

Influence Award: For organisations that are campaigning or lobbying to influence policy, regulation or public opinion in support of regeneration. This award is aimed at supporting groups who are changing the context in which we are all working. There is one prize winner, awarded £25,000. The prize money is available to fund ongoing or future work, as well as a reward for past work.

3. Why did we start the Lush Spring Prize?

The Lush Spring Prize came about through looking at groups and organisations who were making positive changes to agricultural and social systems. The prize aims to highlight their amazing work and celebrate inspiring projects in social and environmental regeneration that are moving past sustainability and showing solutions to the exploitation of people and the environment. You can read more about the reasons why the prize came about here.  

4. What sort of projects does the prize support?

Out of 450 nominations for 2017, 52 projects and organisations have been shortlisted. The award was open to projects worldwide, representing a range of different topics, including community, food, landscapes, networks, energy, water and housing.

You can read more about who was eligible for the prize and about the shortlisters for 2017 here.  

5. Who were the Lush Spring Prize Judges?

There are 12 judges on the panel, coming from a wide spectrum of movements, and representing regenerative design, permaculture, food sovereignty, transition, biomimicry and eco-village networks. Not only does the panel include many experts from specialist fields, it also includes one Lush customer judge and one Lush staff member judge interested in ecology to ensure the public are fairly represented. The judges were as follows:

Warren Brush- Quail Springs Permaculture  

Jyoti Fernandes- Landworkers’ Alliance

Andy Goldring- UK Permaculture Association

Dorothy Guerrero- Global Justice Now

Lyndsey McBean- Staff judge, Lush Spa Cardiff

Precious Phiri- Regeneration International

Filipa Pimentel- Transition Network

Gamelihle Sibanda- Biomimicry, United Nations

Suzi Silva Cumiskey- Customer judge, Brighton

Pandora Thomas- Black Permaculture Network

Daniel Christian Wahl- Gaia Education, Global Ecovillage Network

Julia Wright- Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University

Judging took place in March and you can find out more information about the judges here.

6. How can you find out more?

You can find out who the shortlisters are here and keep track of updates on the award at the Lush Spring Prize website. The winners will be announced on the 23rd May 2017 and interviews with the winners will follow. Follow Lush UK, Lush Life, and Lush Times for social media coverage of the event, by looking up the hashtag: #LushSpringPrize.

7. What is permaculture?

Permaculture: operates around three main ethical principles – care of the earth, care of people and fair share. It’s a way of designing that is all about learning from existing ecosystems in order to create a system or way of life which works with nature, rather than against it. These systems go beyond sustainability and argue that rather than using the earth’s resources sparingly we should be regenerating them as we use them, helping to replenish depleted land and damaged ecosystems and create a species rich, closed loop system.

Permaculture is an acknowledgement that humans are part of the ecosystem, however they can be a very destructive force, consuming lots of resources and producing lots of waste. Living a permaculture lifestyle works towards either completely eradicating waste, significantly reducing it, or finding an ecologically clean use for it, whilst finding ways to regenerate the resources used, helping both the ecosystem and humans benefit.

In a world where the human population is putting much pressure on the earth, resources are running thin and many societies and much of the environment are being damaged. Rather than continually taking from these damaged systems without giving back, regeneration replaces resources as they are used.

For example: creating a closed loop system for growing vegetables would mean that crops were in a constant regenerative cycle. A sustainable vegetable garden might exercise all organic, biointensive methods, but a permaculture garden would take this a step further. A permaculture plot would be designed to help to regenerate soil fertility and make use of waste by using rainwater harvested in a water butt, fertilizing the soil using the composted waste from local restaurants or cafes which would otherwise go to landfill, or growing plants which complement one another and mimic ecosystems.

8. Food security and food sovereignty, what is the difference?

The difference between food security and food sovereignty is often viewed as a complicated one. Put simply, food security is about having enough so as not to go hungry, whilst food sovereignty is having the choice to grow the crops that you want, for the benefit of both the environment and people. Broken down and summarised briefly:

Food Security: means all people at all times have access to a safe, sufficient supply of food at all times. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Perhaps not when you weigh up the negatives against the positives. Food security doesn’t take into consideration cultural choice, the ecosystem as a bigger picture or sustainability of resources. Instead, it prioritizes internationally marketable crops and big companies’ profits over environmental and people’s rights and needs.

Food produced on a large scale, and controlled by multinational companies often means the use of monocropping, chemical pesticides and herbicides and is more likely to be genetically modified. On top of this, intensive farming of the same crops over and over again means that soil fertility isn’t given a chance to recover, leading to the use of chemicals to replenish the land. Monocropping puts significant pressure on the land and depletes soil fertility, this in turn has negative impacts on the ecosystem by decreasing species diversity.

Aside from having an adverse effect on the land, the control of multinational companies on the way food is produced, traded and consumed also has a destructive impact on people, as small scale farmers are often forced to use unsustainable methods and their farming and trading rights are not respected. The result is bad for both the environment and people.       

Food Sovereignty: is where food growing communities have the autonomy or power to plant culturally, socially and environmentally appropriate crops. It is a relatively new social movement, the term was coined in 2006 by La Via Campesina: a coalition of small scale farmers from over 148 nations who champion their rights as small family-farm based agriculturalists.

Many of these farmers use traditional, ecological agriculture methods, which haven’t harmed people or the land for generations. Some of these farmers work on the principles of permaculture, designing their agricultural system as a reflection of natural patterns.

According to the declaration of Nyéléni, food sovereignty ‘‘puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers.’’.  

Localizing this power and allowing people to take back control of their own food systems means food doesn't just become a luxury for export as it doesn’t travel miles to land on a plate the other side of the world. Aside from this, food sources become far more diverse and soil remains fertile for longer through the correct care. As stated by the declaration of Nyéléni, this enables farmers ‘‘to conserve and rehabilitate rural environments, fish stocks, landscapes and food traditions based on ecologically sustainable management of land, soils, water, seas, seeds, livestock and other biodiversity’’. Not only is this diversity better for the environment, humans also benefit from having a more varied diet as they are more likely to receive all the nutrients that they need.

9. How can I get involved with permaculture projects locally or at home?

There are many ways that you can get involved with permaculture at home or within your local community. Here are just a few:

Volunteer for local projects: With so many websites full of information on local projects, it is easier than ever to get stuck into local permaculture schemes. Take a look on the Lush Spring Prize map to find local groups near you. Alternatively the Permaculture Association’s website has plenty of information about permaculture projects in the UK, as well as the option to add your own permaculture organisation to their map to raise awareness and get more people involved.

Take an online course: There are many free online courses on permaculture available, so you can learn a new skill without it costing the earth. Oregon State University host a free course which you can complete in just four weeks, with just two to four hours studying a week. The course covers many aspects of permaculture design and climate-specific design and helps you learn through videos, graphics and reading.

Read up on it: With such a huge range of books available it can be difficult to know where to begin, here are just a few to kickstart your reading list: Cultivating Food Justice : Race, Class and Sustainability by Julian Agyeman, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway, Earth Users Guide to Permaculture by Rosemary Morrow.

Make small changes in your everyday lifestyle: Whether it’s integrating cycling or walking to work into your day as part of your exercise regime, cutting down waste by boycotting products with excessive packaging, harvesting rainwater to water your garden, buying food direct from growers or growing plants to help support the ecosystem (i.e wildflowers to support bees), you can find plenty of ideas on everyday permaculture here.

Do it yourself: Once you’re armed with the necessary knowledge, why not start your own permaculture venture? Whether this is in your own back garden, within your home, or perhaps within your local community, start something on your doorstep! You can read about some simple ways that you can start incorporating permaculture design into your daily life in the Permaculture Magazine here.


Photos (from top of page): 'Fayez showing the aquaponic system at Hakoritna Farm, Tulkarem, Palestine' and Paul Yeboah and Enoch Gadaffi harvesting moringa at the Ghana Permaculture Institute. 

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