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Many people, those of who have heard of permaculture, associate the practice with some type of gardening. While growing food is certainly part of what permaculturalists do, it hardly encapsulates what permaculture is. For those who are deeply involved, permaculture is a way of life, one that involves careful consideration and design to coexist harmoniously with the planet and the other people on it.

In truth, a permaculture lifestyle lived to its fullest can seem overwhelming to those not doing it, particularly those of us accustomed to current consumerism and comforts. Ideas like growing most of our own food, creating no garbage and avoiding a singular career sound more utopian than realistic. However, that’s the existence that permaculturalists are working towards, and many of them are leading lives both inspiring and rewarding.

What’s more is that, like most things, no one just snaps their fingers and achieves sustainability overnight. There is a transition that takes place, some pivot points from which we can all start to become truly more in tuned with the earth and our neighbors.

Chicken in a vegetable garden

Source: hardworkinghippy/Creative Commons

1. Food Production

The idea that any of us can grow all of our own food seems a bit pie-in-the-sky. And, the truth is doing so would require significant dietary change. However, everyone has the potential to start growing some of our own food, whether fresh herbs on the windowsill, a kitchen garden around the patio and/or a small fruit orchard in the yard. Growing food, however much we can muster, is good for us and the planet.

2. Waste Stream

The average amount of garbage one first-world home sends out into the world is heart-wrenching, and while most of us know it, the numbers only seem to be increasing. Whether it’s a compost bin, a worm farm, reusable containers or any other waste reduction technique, we all have steps we can take to reduce the waste we create. We also need to look at ways to repurpose the non-biodegradable waste we can’t avoid, even if that is recycling or donating to thrift stores.

3. Energy Efficiency

Permaculture centers on design, and that design is always looking for energy efficient. This applies to actual energy, such as electricity or fuel, as well as human energy. We may not all suddenly go off-grid, but we can learn to do energy efficient things like carpool, passively heat our homes and rethink our chores to make them less work. Solar panels and electric cars aren’t the only way to be energy efficient. There are many small steps to take along the way to that.

4. Responsible Consumption

We live in extremely capitalistic systems these days, with economies based on constant growth and bent on having us buy and replace constantly. Responsible consumption doesn’t center on purchasing the “green” version of everything, though greener choices can be part of it, but more important is the reduction of what we buy new and the amount of use we get from it. We should always be striving to buy less stuff and buy quality, responsibly produced things when we do purchase something.

5. Community Involvement

Many of us would love to have enough time to volunteer, or we at least like to say it from time to time. Whether or not we can devote an afternoon here and there to volunteering, there are other ways to be involved in the community. Using locally owned shops, visiting farmers markets and donating funding to community initiatives are all viable avenues for benefiting the community without volunteering in the soup kitchen. Hosting or attending a potluck is even a step in the right direction.

Farmer's market

Source: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

6. Diversify Income

Many of us have gone the college route and taken a singular career path, which has often given us a lives beholden to companies and put all of our eggplants in one basket. Permaculture design looks to diversify, the ecology, yes, but also our work. There is often much more stability in a diversified income than one completely reliant on a single employer and salary. With diverse income streams (this can be a side hustle, a spouse’s work, growing food, etc.), if one suffers, the others continue to provide. Of course, the drop in consumerism, grocery bills, and energy consumption helps to lower the bills as well.

7. Knowledge Acquisition

Knowledge is power. It opens up our horizons with new ideas and fresh inspiration. There is a ton of literature on permaculture for those interested in it, but from there, we can delve into useful information about all sorts of things: a new language, a natural building technique, fermentation, veganism, foraging, and so on. A permaculture lifestyle is one filled with curiosity, as well as action.

The most important steps in transitioning to a permaculture or sustainable lifestyle is starting the process. There are different things to varying degrees of devotion we can all be doing, but we all need to be actively doing something. Once the change is in motion, it becomes easier and easier to add to the effort.

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