Permaculture is a word that can be used in a variety of contexts, but primarily refers to "permanent" or "sustainable" agriculture. Also implied in the word is the inseparable quality of humans as part of their ecosystem. Unlike modern and industrialized agricultural techniques driven by large-scale production and fueled by non-renewable energy resources, permaculture looks to develop agricultural systems that take into consideration and mimic natural and balanced relationships present in ecosystems.
The implementation of permaculture systems and ideas is extremely complex and often dependent on specific local conditions such as climate and soil type. Therefore, for our purposes in regards to SOP and general education, permaculture can take on a more basic definition as an agricultural technique that takes into consideration the greater systems at play in our ecosystem and pays special attention to energy inputs and outputs. For example, rather than use fertilizer derived from fossil fuels, tractors than run on fossil fuels, and transportation and packaging methods that use fossil fuels, a system based upon composting, animal manure, and local distribution would be looking at the greater implications of non-renewable energy use on our ecosystem and therefore would be closer to the permaculture ideal.
Examples of permaculture principles can be seen at the Garden in guild or companion plantings, composting, wildlife habitat creation, the use of native plants, and human labor.
More information on permaculture being practiced and taught locally can be found at http://seattlepermacultureguild.org/