Time for Change – How to Maintain a Healthy, Sustainable Lifestyle with Permaculture

Herb gardenCompost binsAvocado and bed 3Potted Herbs

Above are pictures of my small Permaculture backyard. I have 3 raised garden beds. One is planted out with healing herbs, the second with new seedlings of lettuce, kale, beans, calendula and other “babies” and the third under netting (my main supply of greens) has mature silverbeet and different varieties of kale. I also have potted herbs and I pick up my daily prescription from my farmacy of herbs and make a special tea each evening. Along with the potted herbs I have a dwarf avocado, dwarf mulberry and lemon verbena. I have a lemonade tree, curry leaf tree, a lime tree and several paw paw trees. I keep my fruit trees well pruned as my space is limited.  I compost all food scraps, recycle all paper and plastic and I rarely have more than one bag of garbage each week. 

As part of my residential Permaculture design I have solar hot water and 1kw solar electricity. My long term plan is to put in a small water tank for garden watering and emergency use and more solar panels. I have the atitude and belief that everything will evolve in it’s time! My main aim is to do what I can to live sustainably.

Living Sustainably using  Permaculture Principles

The Basics

Permaculture combines three key aspects:

1. An ethical framework

2. Understandings of how nature works, and

3. A design approach

This unique combination is then used to support the creation of sustainable, agriculturally productive, non-polluting and healthy settlements. In many places this means adapting our existing settlements. In other cases it can mean starting from scratch. Both offer interesting challenges and opportunities.

The word ‘permaculture’ comes from ‘permanent agriculture’ and ‘permanent culture’ – it is about living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature. Permanence is not about everything staying the same. It’s about stability, about deepening soils and cleaner water, thriving communities in self-reliant regions, bio-diverse agriculture and social justice, peace and abundance.

Central to permaculture are the three ethics: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share. They form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies. Here are the 12 principles of permaculture as described by David Holmgren. http://permacultureprinciples.com/principles/


  1. Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder”
    By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines”
    By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach”
    Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
  4. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation”
    We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
  5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course”
    Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine”
    By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees”
    By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work”
    By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”
    Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
    Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path”
    The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”
    We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.
 David Holmgren is best known as the co-originator with Bill Mollison of the permaculture concept following the publication of Permaculture One in 1978. His passion about the philosophical and conceptual foundations for sustainability which are highlighted in his book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability inspired the permacultureprinciples.com website where you can learn more about permaculture and sustainable living.

How to incorporate Permaculture into any Lifestyle?

Permaculture is basically common sense, however the best way to live a sustainable lifestyle using Permaculture principles is to take a 2 week residential course and literally live, practice and learn about Permaculture design and implementation in those 2 weeks.  You will learn about designing or re-structuring your property to make life easy, affordable and do-able.

Here is a general outline of a typical Permaculture course:

Day 1: Foundations of Permaculture
Course overview and logistics; permaculture defined; observation skills; ethics and the basis of ecological design; permaculture principles, indicators of sustainability, and how to use them.

Day 2: Design for Pattern Literacy
Designing from patterns to details; natural patterns as a design tool; the permaculture design process; methods of design; the Zone and Sector System.

Day 3: Thinking Like a Watershed
The water cycle; Catching and storage water; designing tanks, cisterns, and other water storages. Roof-top water catchments

Day 4: The Path to Water Wisdom
Ponds, swales, and keyline design; water in the permaculture landscape; greywater and blackwater system design; aquaculture.

Day 5: Soil: The Living Skin of the Earth
Soil structure and composition; soil ecology and nutrient flow; creating healthy soil; analyzing your soil; compost, nutrient teas, and mulches; cover crops and green manures; strategies for your own soil conditions.

Day 6: A Revolution Disguised as Gardening
How ecosystems work; the home garden; plants of many functions; polycultures; integrating animals and insects into the garden; pest management; wildlife habitat

Day 7: Food Forests, Guilds, and Ecosystems
Trees and their many roles; designing plant communities; the orchard; food forest design; hedgerows, windbreaks, and shelterbelts; biomimicry.

Day 8: The Built Environment
The functions of shelter; methods of green and natural building; designing shelter for climate and culture; living roofs; site selection; designing for disaster.

Day 9: Energy and Tools for Working Wisely
Population, energy use, and Peak Oil; renewable energy strategies; appropriate technologies for heating and cooling, transportation, cooking, and construction.

Day 10: Ecovillages, Community,and Thinking Globally
Community dynamics; intentional communities, co-housing, and group decision-making processes; city repair; ecovillages. Designing for urban, suburban, or rural situations. Tropical, dryland, and temperate strategy review.

Day 11: Green Economics and Right Livelihood
Money, finance, and local currency networks; permaculture in education; green business guilds and networks; building social capital. Design project preparation.

Day 12: Putting it Together: The Design Project
Where to from here? Group design project presentations; talent show and final party.