A Working Definition

When all the world gets too much, and you’re overwhelmed by the task of the crisis at hand, turn to permaculture, that’s where you find a wealth and abundance of solutions for living well. 

As time goes on over the course of the Diploma, I’ll add to this definition, as I grow, experience and learn. As a way to begin, I’d like to explore the question ‘What is Permaculture?’

“A design system for sustainable living”. HJF

‘Permaculture offers a set of tools to design sustainable lifestyles’ Jude Hobbs Cascadia permaculture.com

There are so many ways to answer this question. Sarah Pugh, in her opening of the PDC said it is:

A set of tools for good living

Applied ecology

Whole systems thinking

It is about:

How we learn from nature in the design of our own systems

Work with nature, work with what’s there (possible)

How do we create whole systems that are good for all beings and renererative?

Creating positive impacts

Overcoming wastefulness and over consumption

Put more in than you take out

Problems into solution

Cooperation ratchet han competition

Collaboration and collective action

Integrated and holistic

Making things better in the world that you have a part in


Keeping money local

Somatic awareness and intuition

Local economies and groups


Meeting peoples needs

Solutions to a problem

Connection to community

Clear vision

Use skills


Move beyond sustainable into regenerative

Living cycles

Properties and uses of plants to meet needs

Investing surplus in community

Regenerating our souls, coming back into nature ourselves

Low impact living

Being an animal, part of nature

Seasonal eating

Reducing our dependence on fossil fuel

Reduce our energy consumption


Soul is alive

The world is full of edible plants

Community gardening, organic living, urban sustainability

Thinking about the impact of our day to day actions.

Urban Permaculture

It is also about:

Ethics + Principles + Design

Design Process and Toolkit

Design elements and functions

Here’s how some other people have defined permaculture:

“Reclaiming our place in nature as earth stewards, our sense of place, of belonging to the earth, Permaculture fosters respect for life and its complexity, awareness of the consequences of our actions, and accepting responsibility for how we meet our needs. Permaculture draws from the wisdoms of traditional and indigenous cultures and weaves this with our contemporary knowledge of ecology, earth science and technology to create abundance, regenerate the land and build resilient communities. Human creativity, passion and innovation shapes the diverse ways people apply permaculture and adapt it to local resources, climate and cultural context. Every system is unique. Permaculture empowers us in a practical way to explore and realise our potential as positive agents of change, individually and collectively. Living with the challenges of the Anthropocene, permaculture provides a way forward to make our human impact meaningful, to restore the balance by being conscious consumers, to live within the Earth’s biocapacity and respect our interdependence with all life. Permaculture is dancing with nature, and nature leads the dance.” – Robyn Francis

“Permaculture is a solution-based way of life that offers opportunities to live in right relationship with the Earth, its people and future generations to come. By taking a whole systems approach to design, permaculture looks to the root of the world’s problems and seeks answers that are thoughtful, inclusive and long term with a goal of building a regenerative, healthy and thriving natural and social ecology.” – Kym Chi

“Permaculture is a mindset, a toolkit, a design discipline, a movement, interdisciplinary, integrative, entrepreneurship ( a mindset that enables one to create new solutions that never existed before)” – HJF

“Passionate and Caring People are the Heart of Permaculture. People working together and sharing their journey, growing together in Community, growing food, babies, ideas, actions, groups and social enterprises, supporting healthy people and a healthy planet.” – Robin Clayfield – have your permaculture and eat it too 

“Forward-thinking vision for living…make compost, use mulch, conserve water and create guilds…Permaculture is really about changing our mindset and living in a lower impact way. Ecosystem approach to our gardens, seeing plants differently and changing some of our habits, we are creating planet-friendly, more permanent food to rely on. It is about making how we live truly sustainable, i.e. permanent. In reality, permaculture has proved itself to go beyond sustainability. It actually regenerates soils and landscapes, which you will find in your garden when you start to practice the organic methods described later. When you make compost, use mulch, conserve water and create guilds, it follows that your garden will regenerate. A design system for ecological and sustainable living, integrating plants, animals, buildings, people and communities. Be part of the collective that is making the positive changes we need.” – Anna Locke

“Permaculture is applied ecology – learn how nature operates: plant guilds and polycultures, rotational and sequential grazing, tree crops on contour, water harvesting, food forests, and building soil from the top down.” Toby Hemenway Permaculture city

“It is modelled on the principles of nature and natural systems which do not waste and despoil and encompasses philosophy, values and practical strategies for action. Its broad approach uses new methods and practices derived from many disciplines formulated to solve specific problems alongside older techniques that have been largely abandoned. It therefore provides a framework for addressing the basic human needs of food, energy, shelter and a whole host of 21st century dilemmas by adopting its principles for practical solutions that provide safeguards against unwise and damaging actions.” – Anni Kelsey, Edible Perennial Gardening

“Whole-systems ecological design…Nobody owns “permaculture.” All of us have this knowing inside of us, and the ecological design process is about uncovering that knowing, and applying it to our physical, social, and emotional landscapes, with the goal of creating living, evolving systems that mimic nature, produce food and energy, and regenerate, rather than annihilate, the Earth…Design system for creating sustainable human habitats” – HJF

“Permaculture is the harmonious integration of all life kingdoms into agriculturally productive ecosystems and socially just environments producing sound economic outcomes through systems management. It is a regenerative design intention reflecting patterns in nature that seeks to build interconnections allowing for energy efficiency and abundance of yield.” – Treehouse permaculture http://treeyopermacultureedu.com/about/

“Permaculture is a way of knowing; a pattern language.

I care for the Earth

I care for people

I don’t take more than I need

I give back what I can”

 – Lucie Bardos 


permaculture design fundamentals