by Benjamin Vidmar
Entrepreneur and Permaculture Ambassador
Longyearbyen, Norway (Svalbard) is the "northern most" town in the world
(78.2200° N, 15.6500° E) and has been my home since 2008. It is a very unique place and a bit of a no man's land - even though Norway has sovereignty over the island. Longyearbyen is the largest city on the island of Spitsbergen, has 2000 inhabitants. Moreover, there are over 3000 polar bears living on the islands!
Spitsbergen is over 65% protected parks, and there are special regulations in place to preserve the nature here. As a result of being an island, everything is either shipped or flown up, and all waste must also be shipped or flown out. This is a process that uses a lot of fossil fuels and is very vunerable to price increases as the price of fuel goes up. Furthermore, after the waste is shipped down to mainland Norway, it is put on trucks and then shipped over land to Sweden where the waste is sold in order to make energy.
Most of the people here on the island only come here to take, and not many of us think about how to give back to this place. Even when the willingness is there, it is not very easy, due to regulations. However, after living here for over 6 years and only taking as much as I can from this island, I decided that it was now time to give back. This is exactly what my company Polar Permaculture Solutions, AS will be working towards, here in Longyearbyen. We are looking for ways to make this town much more permanent and sustainable!
We have decided that the best way to structure our company is for it to have a for-profit structure. This gives us flexibility and responsiveness that we just could not have with a not-for-profit organisation. We also are looking for simple ways to use permaculture in order to generate profit and to then us a percentage of that to benefit other projects, which are helping to build a wider understanding of permaculture. We are presently growing food, herbs, and vegetables here in our small greenhouse. We are also working with composting worms to process as much organic waste as possible, and hope to change the way organic waste is presently being flushed down the garbage disposal units here in town.
Taking the used coffee grinds from Svalbar Pub here in town has provided us with a great medium to grow oyster mushrooms, and we are looking to expand this area to include coffee waste from all local establishments on the island. Our final area to explore in the early stage is making our own seed paper and developing an instant garden pack that could be sold to both locals and tourist here in Longyearbyen. We will use waste paper and cardboard in order to produce these, and have also coordinated with other companies that provide seeded business cards. By generating income and getting subscribers to support us, we will be able to continue growing and, most importantly, sharing permaculture with as many people as possible.
By experimenting and develop high Arctic permaculture, we are looking to share
and teach this knowledge to others, in order to keep things fresh. This could be accomplished with practical trainings, short courses, and we also would also love to offer a full PDC course here in Longyearbyen twice per year - one in the dark season and one in the light season, which would give people a taste of the real Longyearbyen. We would love to coordinate with others around the world and share our insights. A percentage of our profits will go to support education both online and on the ground here in town.
Many people I knew before I discovered permaculture are already practising many of its principles without knowing it is called permaculture. Making permaculture known to the world is my dream, and it is nice to see it is moving closer and closer to becoming a reality!
To find out more, please visit www.lyr-svalbard.com