Permaculture is “the conscious design and maintenance of productive ecosystems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”

Permaculture: A Designers' Manual 
by Bill Mollison, 1980


"Sustainable" in this context means "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

—The United Nation's Brundtlund Commission of Environment and Development, 1987 

Artwork by Kellen Kichberg


Permaculture Ethics

  • Care for the Earth
  • Care for People
  • Share the Surplus


Permaculture Principles (Holmgren)

Principles for Functional Design (Mollison)

  1. Observe. Use protracted and thoughtful observation rather than prolonged and thoughtless action. Observe the site and its elements in all seasons. Design for specific sites, clients, and climates.
  2. Connect. Situate elements to create more useful relationships and time-saving connections among all parts. Increasing connections among elements creates a healthier, more diverse ecosystem.
  3. Catch and store. Identify, collect, and hold the useful flows of energy and materials moving through the site. By saving and re-investing resources, we maintain the system and capture still more resources.
  4. Stack Functions. Choose and situate each element in a system to perform multiple functions. Increasing beneficial connections between components stabilizes systems. Stack elements in space and time.
  5. Build Redundancy. Use multiple methods to achieve important functions and to create synergies. Redundancy protects when one or more elements fail.
  6. Least Change, Max Effect. Find the "leverage points" in the system and intervene there, where the least work accomplishes the most.
  7. Intensify Small Scale Systems. Start at your doorstep with the smallest systems that will do the job, and build on your successes, with variations.

Principles for Living and Energy Systems

  1. Edge Effect. The edge—the intersection of two environments—is the most diverse place in a system, and is where energies and materials accumulate. Optimize the amount of edge.
  2. Accelerate Ecological Succession. Mature ecosystems are more diverse and productive than young ones, so use design to jump-start succession.
  3. Biological and Renewable Resources. Renewable resources (usually plants and animals) reproduce and build up over time, store energy, assist yield, and interact with other elements.
  4. Recycle Energy. Supply local and on-site needs with energy from the system, and reuse this energy as many times as possible. Every cycle is an opportunity for yield.


  1. Problems to Solutions. Challenges and constraints can inspire creative design. "We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities."
  2. Get Yield. Get both immediate and long-term returns from your efforts: "You can’t work on an empty stomach." Set up positive feedback loops to build the system and repay your investment.
  3. Unlimited Yields. The biggest limit to the total yield of a system is the designer’s imagination.
  4. Disperse Over Time. Using the Principle of Seven Generations, we can use energy to construct systems, if they store or conserve more energy during their lifecycles than we used to construct or maintain them.
  5. Mistakes Teach. Evaluate your trials and learn from your results. Making mistakes is a sign you’re trying to do things better.

Rules for Resource Use

Ranked from regenerative to degenerative, different resources can:

  • increase with use  -ecological systems with nutrient cycling, humus, livestock, beneficial habitat
  • be lost when not used  -energy resources: water, sun light, heat, wind
  • be unaffected by use  -wind, sunlight, thermal mass
  • be lost by use  -coal, oil, natural gas
  • pollute or degrade systems with use  -coal, oil, natural gas

From Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual by Bill Mollison, Tagari Publications, 1980