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How to Live a Productive and Sustainable Permaculture Lifestyle

By applying the 12 principles of permaculture to our lives, we can increase productivity, cut down on waste, and boost the health of our own, personal ecosystem.

Permaculture is just about sustainably growing your own food, isn’t it? That is a common perception but, for committed permaculturists, it’s much more than that. 

Permaculture is a way of life that encourages humans to coexist harmoniously with their environment. Rather than forcing ourselves to live in a specific manner, permaculture teaches us to observe the natural way of life and then adapt our lifestyles to align with that organic system.

Using the principles of permaculture, you can assess where you are now and identify areas in your life that could be adapted to align with those principles. We don’t have time to explore each of the 12 principles here, so we’ll start with the first five – these should start you on your permaculture journey nicely. 

How to Design a Permaculture Lifestyle


Principle 1: Observe and Interact

Before designing a permaculture garden, we first observe the land so we can create sustainable solutions that complement its natural rhythms. 

The same thing applies to a permaculture lifestyle. Observe and assess your current lifestyle, identifying those aspects that already work effectively and work out which areas could be redesigned or improved. 

Principle 2: Catch and Store Energy

A permaculture lifestyle should reflect the way the natural world uses energy. 

For example, if you don’t look after yourself by providing your body with healthy foods and regular exercise, you won’t be as productive nor as beneficial for those around you.

Plan your lifestyle to work as effectively as possible, with as little energy expended as possible. Plant kitchen gardens as close to your house as you can. Plant things you use every day on the path to the garbage bins or the chicken coop – paths you walk every day. 

Principle 3: Obtain a Yield


The food forest, 6 months old

Everything in a permaculture garden has at least one purpose, as should everything in our lives. 

Does the amount of time you spend working justify the yield, or is there something else you could use that time for that would be more productive in the long run?

Similarly, does the food you eat give you the vitamins and nutrients you need to live an energetic and engaged lifestyle? Does the exercise you do give you optimal results, or could you choose a different type of fitness training that would give you a greater yield in exchange for a smaller investment of both time and energy? 

Choose plants and materials with multiple purposes. A tree can be a windbreak, chicken fodder, shade for the chicken coop, and a source of timber in the future. A picking bed can be a place to grow a kitchen garden and it can also house an in-ground worm farm for your scraps, as well as provide a space for beneficial insects.  

Principle 4: Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

The natural world self-regulates to maintain balance and adjust to external pressures, such as climatic changes. Living a permaculture-inspired lifestyle means finding a balance and applying self-regulation to realign our lives with the natural order.

By becoming more self-reliant, we can more easily adjust to change. Similarly, by accepting feedback about what isn’t working or what areas of our lives are out of balance, we can find solutions to those problems and adjust our lifestyles accordingly.

Observe how nature does things. How does a garden grow? How does an insect pollinate? How does a tree self-seed? Watch and learn. 

Principle 5: Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services


Think of your body as a renewable resource and think of time, food, and exercise as a means of topping up it. 

Just as you wouldn’t deplete a particular resource in your garden, so you should guard against draining your personal resources, in terms of energy and productivity. 

Healthy food, regular exercise, and an awareness of our bodies’ needs help us to maintain the renewable resource that is our physical energy, creating a healthier and more productive version of ourselves.

Creating a Productive and Sustainable Permaculture Lifestyle

By applying the principles of permaculture to the way we live, we can create a more productive and sustainable lifestyle that doesn’t deplete our physical resources. 

As we are part of our home ecosystem, if we are healthier and living a more balanced life, then the whole system will benefit, becoming more robust while maintaining its equilibrium.


  • A horse-mad redhead with a passion for the outdoors, Nicky lives on a 6ha small-holding on the Wild Coast of South Africa. She spends her time rearing goats, riding (rearing) horses, and meticulously growing her own chicken food. She has a witch’s knack with herbs and supplements everything, from her beloved Australian Cattle Dog to the occasional passing zebra with the fruits of her labor. Nothing is bought unless Nicky fails to MacGyver it out of scraps of broken bridles, baling twine, or wire. She loves baling twine (and boxes, oddly enough).


Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

Great article and amazing to see your productive garden after only 6 months.


Tuesday 29th of December 2020

Thanks Sue :) The wet season has started and it truly looks like a jungle now! Dan and I got in there yesterday to do some weeding and we dug another coconut/banana circle. We filled it up with weeds straight away, a huge pile :D