We can apply the concept of 'zones' to both use of elements, and our influence in our communities and beyond. The zones allows us to conceptualize an economy of energy when creating change within ourselves, family, neighborhood and country.
Applying Zones of Use to OPT's backyard design
Zone 0 in our backyard design is the house, where we had our office and kept an indoor seedling and aquaponics set-up that grew salad greens and small veggies. Zone 1 is the area immediately surrounding the house and the outdoor space that we spent the most time. In Zone 1, we kept our rain barrels and vermicomposting bin. Because the house is surrounded by concrete and abutted by an in-ground pool, our Zone 2 encompassed a larger and scattered area, including parts of our gardens and a small greenhouse. We adapted our zone planning around these existing conditions on site and designed our Zone 2 as 'patches' instead of a discrete ring (see diagram below). Zone 3/4 (further away from the house, but right next to main garden in Zone 2) also had garden beds for growing plants we were experimenting with/trying out, and was where we kept compost, tools, and found materials (pots, bricks, stones, fencing, etc). This area borders a pathway of forest and wetlands where we'd often see squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, coyotes, turkeys and countless kinds of birds.
Applying Zones of Influences to OPT's work
We think of Zones of Influence as a way to work from the inside out, imagining a spiral of activity from ourselves outward into our community. It helps us to commit different levels of energy to different zones to work to meet our goals. This thinking has led us to focus on the development of ourselves and our homestead first, energy from we can send out as ripples into other zones, by for example getting involved with local organizations like Waltham Fields Community Farm and planning the Northeast Permaculture Convergence in 2012. This diagram is a reminder that self-care is very important in our trip.
Deep Green Permaculture offers in depth information on each zone in this article. We've also included a PDF with diagrams and basic descriptions of zones of use and zones of influence. Share with us in the comments your experiences with zones of use/influence planning and design!