Return of Surplus; a Permaculture Ethic that helps to build community!

Upon observing nature, we see that any surplus is continually recycled back into the Earth and its systems. This fundamental process of the Biosphere is also a guiding ethic of Permaculture. As its founders describe, the ‘Fair Share or Return of Surplus’ ethic is ‘a self-regulated balance between consumption and redistribution of surplus’. We all have needs and wants that can be derived from people and planet. By contributing our fair share back to nature and the greater community, we become part of a perpetual cycle of give-and-take that, when functioning well, has the capacity to sustain all life.


Let’s explore the impacts of the Return of Surplus concept further with the example of a fruitful plum tree:

Farmer Prunella just doesn’t have the time or need to harvest her prolific plum tree this year.

By simply registering with Kootenay Food, she receives a team of volunteers on her farm to harvest the perfectly ripe fruit.

The ripe fruit then goes back to a certified commercial kitchen where another ‘Workbee’ team is ready to process it into chutney.

All volunteers – and Farmer Prunella – receive a share of the fruit or chutney. Volunteers also leave with knowledge, experience, and new-found connections to their community.

Farmer Prunella further benefits from seeing her abundant harvest go to good use rather than rotting on the ground and attracting unwelcome wildlife.

Kootenay Food will often donate a substantial share of the chutney back to the community; for example, it would be served at community meals and events, or used to stock up pantries at the local Food Bank.

Kootenay Food will eventually sell the remaining 1/3 of chutney to support our operating budget for future projects like this.


One fruit tree has the potential to feed more than one household, and in more ways than just food! By choosing to transform her burden into a community asset, Farmer Prunella provoked a ripple of benefits that came back around to helping her in return.

Setting limits to our personal consumption and giving back to our community can be challenging sacrifices in an increasingly populated world that can often feel isolating. Yet the decision to engage in this reciprocal cycle provides inclusion, fulfillment and assurance in an intermediary system of collaboration that sits between our personal home lives and the larger governing bodies. We can only do so much, and so can rest assured that the strengths of other locals will bolster our shortcomings. By focusing on our assets – what we can do, what we do have – we then retain the vital energy and resources necessary to support those around us.

The West Kootenay Permaculture Co-op is a non-profit community organization working to build a healthy and resilient region through collaboration, education, media and net-positive initiatives.

This year WKPCo-op is working with a number of regional harvest rescue groups and emergency food providers to make it easy for community members to share their garden excess.

As a non-profit organization, WKPCo-op certainly requires a stream of surplus in monetary form, but money is not the only way to share! Here are a few other ways we can all gain by working together:

  • Time
  • Physical/Mental/Emotional Energy
  • Education/Teaching/Knowledge
  • Skills: Business, Networking, Food Processing & Preservation, Land Stewardship
  • Community Resilience and Camaraderie
  • Tangible Resources: Food Abundance

Looking to get involved? Interested in helping to build and strengthen our community by contributing a resource or asset? It’s easy to get in touch!

By simply going to you can fill in a quick and easy form, letting us notify the closest harvest rescue group to you. The appropriate group will be in contact and make arrangements to receive, collect or pick food and start the process of sharing with community.

Let us know if you’d like to get involved with our WorkBees, rescue harvest days, or some of our other programs, and we look forward to working with you! Our volunteer sign-up process is also super simple: select your desired project at and we’ll notify you when those opportunities come up!