Permaculture is mostly recognized for its contributions to alternative agricultural techniques, and while food production and nature conservation are certainly important parts of the theory, there are other facets to it. In fact, for those interested in becoming practitioners, even if on a small-scale, it doesn’t require owning a garden, diving into a rural lifestyle or even giving up the supermarket. All permaculturalists, no matter where they live, are meant to care for the earth and for other people. It’s part of the gig.

Many of the more innovative waves throughout the movement are actually geared towards urban practices. Because permaculture strives to find a non-destructive, earth-nurturing spot for humanity on the planet, cities — where most people live — are vitally important within permaculture’s considerations. Unfortunately, urban areas, on the whole, are also often amongst the most wasteful and environmentally damaging. But, they needn’t be.


In other words, no matter where we live, be it a farm in Kentucky or high-rise in New York, there are things we can do.

Reduce Your Waste With Cycles

Waste is a one of the fundamental issues with which humanity is now coming terms. Our oceans are badly damaged with debris from our excessive use of non-biodegradable products, like plastic bottles and bags. Even the once believed “responsible” way of dealing with trash, putting it into a garbage can, is proving to be problematic now: we are simply destroying too much valuable land with our dumps. Rural, urban and suburban alike, we all have to take it upon ourselves to reduce our waste.

Permaculture looks to nature for the answers, and what people have observed is that there is no waste in an ecosystem. A fallen tree, leaves, rotten fruit, and so on all go back into feeding the soil and plants so that the forest grows better. Even if our contribution can only be a compost bin, being productive with kitchen scraps, cardboard, and paper products, it represents a much bigger step in our collective mentality about how the world actually works.

Reuse What You Can

The other big thing we can do to reduce our waste is to reuse what we can, either with methods like upcycling (making something of value from our garbage) or by purchasing reusable items. As vigorous consumers in the modern market, we have become far too accustomed to frivolous packaging and buying without discernment. It means that we are producing more and more garbage with each purchase we make.


Instead, we should reuse what we can. We should buy things secondhand if something secondhand will suffice. We should definitely jump on the bandwagon of reusable water bottles, shopping bags, and whatever else might not produce more garbage. For every item we reuse rather than purchase new, we are saving the planet resources, ourselves money and the landfill space. It is how we can nestle into nature a little less brutally.

Grow at Least Something to Eat

Permaculture is primarily centered in growing food, and for some, this prospect is a bit intimidating. But, it shouldn’t be. While many people aim to grow a self-sustaining amount of produce, that is not the norm for what most permaculturalists can muster. The truth is that, until the last century, most people did grow at least some of their own food, and a return to that could make huge difference in the world today.

Food production has slipped into an evil sphere of late. Massive monocultures maintained with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are not the answer. Rather, whether we are producing a few herbs on the windowsill or a full summer harvest, adapting the idea of growing something for ourselves helps entertain a different, more sensible mindset.

Buy Local (or, Even Better, Trade)

For those who are not in the position to grow a huge amount of their own food, the other way to voice these concerns and act accordingly, is to buy what food we do eat from local sources. The other difficult aspect of today’s food industry is that we’ve become so reliant on imported items, forgetting almost entirely about what is grown only a few miles away. This has been horrible for the people of less developed countries, who are taken advantage, as well as for the environment, which is footing the actual cost of carting all the stuff across the oceans.


It’s a very difficult thing to now switch to a completely local diet, as we have become so reliant on imports. However, when we make the effort to use the what food is available from our local growers and artisans, we are doing something good for ourselves (healthier), the planet (less chemicals and “food miles”) and other people (small farmers in our own districts). Joining in on this uprising of farmers markets is a bold statement as to what we stand for and believe in. It represents productive change.

Some practitioners are uncomfortable with identifying permaculture as a political act, but without a doubt, it’s activism, and it’s a movement that only strives to care for the earth and people in a way that allows us both to thrive. If we are doing that, whatever we are doing, that’s permaculture. Why not start with these four and see if we can add more?

Lead image source: Flickr