Permaculture – refreshingly effective

Posted: 8th August 2018


By: Milly Carmichael

Permaculture – refreshingly effective

Isn’t that all herb spirals and compost toilets?
What’s it got to do with my business?


Maybe more than you think.

Would you like your business to be more effective, abundant, resilient, adaptable, fairly effortless and a joyful place to work? If you do (and who wouldn’t?), permaculture could offer you a direction and the tools to get there.


Permaculture is a design system that is based on three core ethics, a set of simple design principles that come from observing how natural eco-systems function, and an ever-growing catalogue of design frameworks and tools based on both old human wisdoms and modern sustainable technologies. The purpose is to create effective, abundant, resilient, adaptable, fairly effortless, joyful designs for life and livelihoods that are fit for the future, whatever it may bring.


It is a growing global phenomenon that is greening deserts, reinvigorating derelict urban areas, regenerating soils, innovating food growing, building communities, localising economies and providing sustainable livelihoods for many thousands of people.


Now it’s coming out of the fields and into boardrooms, schools, health care, economics, housing – in fact all areas of human endeavour including businesses just like yours.


I know that businesses can benefit from the application of permaculture design but language and imagery are proving to be a bit of a barrier. This is what I often hear when I talk to people about its application in business:


“I really like the ideas but you can’t call it ‘permaculture’ – people in business won’t understand that – they won’t get it.”


Perhaps, instead, I could talk about developing the circular economy, inspiring product and service design, values-based recruitment, doing more with less, work-life balance, change management, team building and staff retention, building client relationships, waste reduction, energy efficiency, diversification or future-proofing. All of those aspects of your business, and more, can be positively impacted by the application of permaculture design.


As I teach and train more about permaculture to diverse groups of people, I find it encouraging that I’m starting to hear some different responses now.


“Wow – that really makes sense. I can see that being used in Occupational Therapy – it’s a great framework for wellbeing and rehabilitation.” (Occupational Therapist)


“I work in a prison… the whole criminal justice system could do with a bit of that, for sure” (Therapeutic Horticulture Project Manager)


“To be honest Milly, I thought it was all going to be a bit ‘yoghurt-weaving’. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s actually a way of life isn’t it?” (Small Business Owner)


And this from a complementary therapist in a blog written after a one day introduction I recently facilitated for a local sustainability group:

“I came to realise that you can apply these principles not only to gardening but to your life as well … to almost everything. This was only an introduction and my whole view has changed already. Sure that I want to know more about it and it definitely made me think.”

The three core ethics of permaculture are:

  • Earth care
  • People care
  • Fair shares (Future care)

The 12 principles are:

  • Observe and interact
  • Catch and store energy
  • Obtain a yield
  • Produce no waste
  • Design from pattern to detail
  • Use and value renewable resources and services
  • Use small and slow solutions
  • Integrate rather than segregate
  • Use edges and value the marginal
  • Apply self regulation and accept feedback
  • Creatively use and respond to change


In the coming weeks I will be posting short vlogs on my facebook page ( and YouTube channel ( on each of the ethics and principles with examples of how they can enhance your business planning and practices. Do give them a watch and let me know what you think.


On October 11th we also have an event at Wrag Barn in Highworth where you can learn more about both permaculture and associated communication skills to enhance your working relationships with your own teams, clients, customers and suppliers.


Thank you for giving your time to reading this article.

(The waterfall picture was copied from following a search for images available ‘free  to share and use commercially’)