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10 Principles of Permaculture

This chapter focuses on YOU!

These principles are ways to live the three ethics of the permaculture philosophy and is arguably one of the most important chapters towards living a more sustainable lifestyle.

The small things are what infinitetly improve your life and the lives of those in your community. Much of what is discussed in this eco guide can and will fit in to one of these ten categories.

1. Cooperation not competition

This is the idea of building connections with fellow community members and of course nature itself!

What you can do:

  • Skill sharing in free community workshops
  • Sustainable technologies that conserve and protect natural resources; i.e. natural building, solar power
  • Community garden spaces for urban food production as well as the encouragement of local culture
  • Team building activities in schools, workspaces, summer camps
  • Companion planting is the classification of plants in guilds based on nutrients, natural insect repellant, habitat, and growth… A common guild known as “the three sisters” is corn, beans, and squash.

2. See solutions not problems

Think outside the box when a challenge arises - there are many things a little bit of creativity and imagination can solve!

What you can do:

  • Build with trash uses waste in a creative way
  • Composting food scraps with dry materials like paper, cardboard, and dried plants utilizes decomposing natural materials in a beneficial way so you don’t have to use chemical fertilizers in your garden
  • Plant in containers in small garden spaces
  • Utilize weeds as a mulch cover for garden beds, as dry material for the compost, or even as medicinal alternatives
  • Alternative education emphasizes different teaching methods and curriculum.

3. Use everything to its highest capacity; make things pay; everything cycles; energy flow

Everything is cyclical in a natural habitat, so nothing is wasted and, instead, has a purpose of its own!

What you can do:

  • Dumpster diving for furniture and other goodies. One person’s trash is another’s treasure.
  • Grey water systems recycle water by irrigating your garden after you wash your hands or do a load of laundry.
  • Using the sun for passively heating our house in the winter, for cooking our food and heating our water, and making electricity (photovoltaic panels).
  • Plant nutrient fixing plants in your garden instead of using chemical fertilizers to enhance soil fertility.

4. Each element has many functions

Ensure that each individual element performs many beneficial functions.

What you can do:

  • Chickens not only provide eggs but they also are great for weed and pest control.
  • A rocket oven inside your kitchen heats the house as it cooks the food.
  • Old clothes are great for insulation.
  • Use every part of an animal; i.e. the meat, the bones, the feathers/fur /hair.
  • Trees provide shade, food, shelter, building materials, habitats for wildlife, fallen leaves for decomposition, soil stabilization, and wind protection.

5. Important functions should be supported by many elements

For any of life's functions, don't put all of your eggs in one basket. You should never rely on one source for our most important functions like food, water, electricity, etc. Leave yourselves with alternatives.

What you can do:

  • You can harvest your rainwater to feed your plants and in the event of a drought, you can have collected water that can be drank.
  • Having solar panels in your home allows you to use the sun as a natural energy source. Also, your local electric company compensates you for any unused solar power that feeds right back into the grid.
  • If you have an abundant harvest try canning, pickling, or drying your fruits and vegetables so you can enjoy them even after their season has passed.

6. Relative location; correct placement; let nature do the work; work with nature not against; observation, least amount of intervention for maximum effect; work where it counts

What you can do:

  • When mulching your garden, use dried leaves from a nearby tree.
  • Weed garden beds only before you plant in them.
  • Plant your garden near the kitchen so that you can gather produce easily when cooking.

7. Bring food production back into the city; everything gardens; stacking, perennials, no dig systems

Urban gardening allows you to become more self-reliant and to eat healthier, better tasting, local produce than what the neighborhood chain grocery store can offer.

What you can do:

  • Edible trees in public parks give the neighborhood healthy and fun snacks while spending time outside.
  • Rooftop and community gardens offer places where people can grow food even if they don’t have their own backyard space.
  • Container gardening is great for small yards or even indoor planting. 
  • Make and distribute seed balls.

8. Minimum maintenance and energy inputs to achieve maximum yields; mini/max

Efficiency and resourcefulness helps save you time, energy, and, in some cases, even money in the long term.

What you can do:

  • Building structures with durable materials maximizes the longevity of the building
  • Sheet mulch gardening provides loads of fertility for a garden bed because the compost is directly created on it
  • Solar panels use the sun for electricity

9. Energy efficiency

What you can do:

  • Carpooling to work, school, the grocery store…
  • Riding a bike instead of driving a car is a healthy, fun, cost efficient, and environmentally friendly form of transportation
  • Passive solar heating and cooling for your home uses the sun to your benefit
  • Unplugging appliances when not in use

10. Diversity = Stability

You will find more success in diversity on many levels

What you can do:

  • Planting a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and grains in your garden helps strengthen the fertility of the soil as each plant releases different nutrients as it grows
  • Skill sharing within a community means that people can learn many different trades like carpentry, welding, quilting, bike repair, gardening, cooking, etc…
  • Saving local seeds and trading them within a community protects heirloom species and keeps the local vegetation alive


  • Book: Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren

This chapter is based on the '10 Principles of Permaculture' as taught by Mike Kaplin. He is an educator for the Green Apprenticeship program and director of Kibbutz Lotan's Center for Creative Ecology.


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