Designing Permanent Lifestyles with Permaculture
By Josh Davis

Permaculture teaches so many ways to implement efficient and sustainable changes to our landscape to create resilient and abundant ecosystems. The idea of learning from nature that is the foundation of permaculture just works. But why stop there? If everything is connected, then why not apply this same methodology and philosophy to design more resilient and abundant lifestyles as well?


Ever since I first learned about permaculture, I have explored this concept. Can we learn from nature to design lifestyles that are much more natural? Where we are taking the path of least resistance, working with our environment, and becoming more resilient to face the inevitable changes that life brings? The philosophy and mindset we would take to redesigning a piece of land can actually be easily utilised to designing “Zone 0,” also known as ourselves.


Here are some initial areas to consider for redesigning for a permaculture-based lifestyle.



Co-founder of permaculture, David Holmgren, lists this principle first for a reason: it is the most important. Whether you are observing land or yourself, gaining insight before taking action is vital. Taking time to know yourself and observing what is working will save a lot of time and energy in the long run. If you can start to ask yourself questions and gain a deeper understanding of who you are, it can help make changes to your life that will have a incredibly positive impact.


Activities to try:

  • Keep a journal for a month.It can be as detailed as you wish. What works for me might not work for you, which is kind of the point. The aim is to keep track, observe, and find out a little more about yourself. Look at it as if creating a permaculture basemap and sector analysis that you would for a landscape – observe yourself with the same inquisitive lens you would a new landscape.
    • When do you have the most energy?
    • When are you tired?
    • Where do you spend your most time?
    • How much sleep are you getting?
    • How much do you exercise?
    • How much do you eat and drink?
    • What makes you happy or stressed?
    • What patterns are emerging from your observations?

The questions can be altered depending on the aspects of your life you may like to redesign.



  • Meditate. Starting a simple meditation practice, removing all distractions for at least 10 minutes a day can be very powerful and offer you a very different perspective on life. Notice when your mind is overly active, when it has more clarity, and when you are recycling the same old thoughts. You don’t need to act on this. Just simply start observing yourself a little more and building a bigger picture.


Exercise and Movement

Movement and exercise are a fundamental part of what it means to be human. We are capable of a huge range of movements, yet few of us utilize even a small percentage of the full capabilities of our bodies. If we looked at this as if we were a garden, we would see so much wasted resources.


What if we view movement as if it were a healthy ecosystem? Letting only one activity dominate your movement is no different than a monoculture farm growing its one crop. A healthier, more sustainable body ecompases a polyculture form of moving. It runs, swims, practises yoga, climbs, etc. Building a strong healthy body will see fewer injuries as it reduces repetition and allows the full range of muscles and joints to be used and strengthened.


The beauty of permaculture farming over conventional agriculture is that it actually enhances a wider range of movement than its counterpart. Repeated harvesting of the same plant, row after row, can lead to things like repetitive strain injury. Permaculture harvesting would have us reaching high, low, left, right: it provides more diversity, which is also an important permaculture principle.


Activities to try:

  • Find a new exercise to try. If you currently focus on one activity as your main source of exercise, try to find something that complements it. The less equipment used for the activity, the more natural the movement tends to be. Running, for example, offers a more natural form of movement than bicycling which is restricted by the technology. Try to find numerous activities to try, some that get your heart rate going, some that gain flexibility and core strength, some slow, some fast. This helps build a resilient body that is less susceptible to injuries.
  • Go barefoot. Shoes are a clever creation. The problem is, not only do they restrict the natural movement of our feet, they often are also raised at the heel. The foot is not designed to be raised at the heel. There are a several studies showing how this subtle change can be a leading cause in a number of injuries and muscle imbalances. There are a number of ‘zero drop’ shoe companies out there that can help you maintain a more natural gait and movement while still wearing shoes. You don’t have to go fully barefoot, although feeling the earth and grass below your feet is the optimum. Working with nature, rather than against it and feeling the ground as you walk can help both physically and mentally.



Diet and Nutrition

There are many environmental and compassionate arguments for following a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, it may not always be better for the individual. I personally found that a vegan diet did not work for me, while I have friends who have thrived on it. In the same way that there is no one approach to designing land, there is not one approach to diet. Again, observation and listening to feedback are key.


Activities to try:

  • Be more mindful of what you eat. It is easy to slip into bad habits around food. Spend a week/month trying to be very mindful of everything you eat. If you can, keep a record of it. If you eat a big steak, or a high sugar snack, or lots of fresh vegetables, how do you feel afterwards? Notice the things that have a positive or a negative effect on how you feel. Redesign your diet based on these observations. A simple step, but one that is often ignored.
  • Listen to the body. Society has created the belief that we should eat 3 meals a day, and we often eat influenced more by the time of day rather than hunger. Animals eat when they are hungry, plants require water when dry. Why not do the same? Try to notice when you are actually hungry and thirsty and look for fulfillment when the body asks for it. We often get cravings for certain foods which can be (not always) a way of our body telling us we need the nutrition that particular food offers. Example, craving chocolate is often a sign of a magnesium deficiency. Dark chocolate has magnesium in it, though not enough to eliminate a deficiency, but this craving can be a good indicator of what is going on inside.




The majority of people in the global workforce have one full time job. It is seen as the safest, most secure way to have an income.


To put all our eggs in one basket, however, is not the permaculture approach. If you were to lose your one job, you lose 100% of your income stream. A permaculture designed approach would be to have numerous income streams, each supporting and strengthening the other while at the same time being fully independent. If one was to unexpectedly reduce or stop altogether, the other income streams would still be coming in.


This approach would make us much more resilient individuals. It would reduce the stress associated with losing a job and through a varied income, potentially allow us to explore a larger range of skill sets, hobbies and interests. All of which would contribute to a healthier overall lifestyle.


Activity to try:

  • Find alternative income streams. List 5 ways you could make extra money on the side. Is this through existing hobbies? Freelance work? What is one small step you could take to making this a reality? Transitioning to this kind of lifestyle may take several years. However, a multi-income stream could offer you a much more stable permanent lifestyle.


Simple and Slow Solutions

With any changes to our lifestyle, simple and slow allows for the healthier final outcome. It can be tempting to give in to impatience, rip the plaster off and make the change happen fast, but this often leads to instability and unnecessary stress.


For example, if you decide you want to reduce the amount of waste you create, it is daunting to go fully zero-waste overnight. A better solution is to monitor how much you currently waste and each week take small steps to reduce. Taking this slower approach leads to less stress and impact on your lifestyle. Before you know it, you will dramatically reduce your waste without much sacrifice to your lifestyle.


If we allow time to get to know ourselves properly, building a rich understanding, we can adapt our lifestyles slowly and reduce the risks. None of these changes will happen overnight, but neither will your food forest. Once you switch your mindset to seeing your lifestyle in this way, you will unlock a whole world of possibilities where permaculture can be applied. From how much we waste, to how we spend our time, to our relationships – the possibilities are as endless as the variety that can be found in a permaculture garden.


Pick a few areas to work on, then when you find success, try a few more. Step by Step.


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