Permaculture, a Step by Step Change

To me, the simple idea of changing from an energy guzzling, water polluting, fertilizer junkie to a full ecological ‘Permie’ was just bogus. So far, it has proven impossible to make the full change in the last three years.

I want to share with you some of my thoughts, ideas and frustrations; maybe you’ll find them familiar. What I have found is that my most important asset is my will. I am sure you have it to. Without it you will be disappointed after the first setback or caustic comment from someone you care about.

The old times

There was something “green” inside of me since I was a child. The idea of unused things being thrown into the garbage has always bewildered me. I was no Einstein but I could make a couple of multiplications, and to think that many millions of people were throwing unused things ‘away’ every day left me with great garbage piles in my mind.

I also was very upset to see almost every public bus spewing an horrific dark cloud of toxic fumes in my beloved Guatemala. There seemed nothing I could do about it though, being only nine years old.

My father taught me to throw fewer things into the garbage can and to reuse them instead, but most of his in-laws judged him as miserable. Everybody is used to bathing with full water pressure for twenty minutes, to throw away every can and beverage container they use, and to discard the tooth paste as soon as it gets a little harder to extract the last bit, and whenever someone says there is a better way to do things, they call him miserable, even though he might have been a permaculture precursor.

I remember my grandmother’s back yard. It puzzled me. It had very few flowers, but produced delicious guavas, medlars, oranges, peaches and the like. Also, her garbage can was the talk of the family (not in the good manner). She used only an old can of paint — one gallon — and that was it. Everything organic went to the orchard and non-organic was reused. Everything else, which was very little, went into the small garbage can. She was a hardcore Permie without knowing it. But sadly, she was often criticized for her methods. Maybe she was ahead of her time.

Nevertheless, this background was nursed into me from a baby, and sooner or later it had to come to the surface again.

When I heard the term ‘permaculture’ the first time, it intrigued me. I had to search for it, learn more and know about it. Someone told me it had to do with plants, their interactions and earth’s health. It was something like the thing that I have always been looking to do in my life.

The overwhelming world of Permaculture

I started to read and I came to notice that permaculture was not only about plants and their interactions. Some authors teach that there are 12 elements that make up nature. Others center their teachings on water management, other on solar energy, others on soil and waste management… so I kept on reading and then found Uncle Bill’s books.

When I finished reading Introduction to Permaculture I was speechless. Permaculture encompassed much more than I could ever have thought possible, nevertheless, I felt a deep emotion in my belly.

This emotion arrived to me along with a feeling of being lost in a pile of information. All of the sudden I found myself with 25 books to read, a lot of websites, authors and technical data. I had no idea where to start.

Someone said to me: there are more books in the world than time to read them. So I had to choose, and after choosing, I had to start doing something… because I know Permies are not library mice, but field bulls. OK, they may be a little of both, because to work without information is being naïve and studying without practice is to dream. We should be working dreamers.

To start, step by step

So, somehow I had to start doing something; and that is what I want to share with you today.

Learning permaculture is a gradual process. Maybe you already started and you don’t know it yet. Permaculture is a way of life; is a mindset; is some kind of relationship of your being with the world you live in — but you don’t have to get overwhelmed.

Go slow and steady….

It does not matter if you are not a hardcore Permie by the end of the month. You may still have the need to use your car to drive around and pick up your children at school, or you may have to turn on the electric water heater when you take a bath or your microwave to heat up your soup. The thing is to take the first step. This is what is important. The first step.

Of course, then you will have to take the second and third; but for this moment let us not get crazy with many steps.

When you throw your used coffee in the soil between your plants, you’re taking a step. When you use and reuse your paper, you’re taking another step. When you bathe for 10 minutes instead of 20, you’re taking another step.

Many steps may have been taken by the time you find yourself disconnected from the grid, but for the sake of your peace of mind, be sure the time is dictated by you and your need to be part of the movement, because you don’t want to find yourself without food or water as you go.

So, permaculture is a process that goes step by step, and change is a state of mind. If you have that state of mind, you will have a keen mind to find what next step to take and how to reduce your footprint in this beautiful and magnificent planet.

Happy steps!!!


  1. Thanks for writing this. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels rather swamped by the sheer amount of information there is to know when moving beyond the decision to change and starting to look at implementing permaculture in day to day life. One step at a time…

  2. If every body take at least one of the steps you mentioned, it would be good for the entire planet.
    It would be a little step for each one of us, but a big jump for the entire planet.
    Congratulations Juan and please, keep going.

  3. If every body take at least one of the steps you mentioned, it would be great for the entire planet.
    It would be a little step for each one of us, but a big jump for the entire humanity.
    Thank you Juan and keep going

  4. The secret is to start small, and grow from there. It’s a gradual process. Remember we all start at the same point, from the beginning. We learn by doing, and the more we challenge ourselves to try and do something that we haven’t tried before, the more we progress, the more we learn, and the more wisdom we gain. It’s a lifelong journey that reconnects us back to our roots, back to Nature, and back to our place and purpose on this planet. Enjoy the journey!

  5. Well said. There is no need to get swamped if we use small and slow solutions, if we work with others. Others who have more experience and knowledge, others who are at the same place as ourselves. Just as we use and value diversity in Permaculture we must mirror that with more diverse and integrated human relationships. In creating a more diverse and complex agroecological system we must create a more diverse and complex socio cultural system to support/ participate in the agroecological one.
    Another tip for the swamped where to start people. Start at your back door step/ zone one. Make that start.

  6. Thanks for all your contributions. As you all said: we have to do something, the important thing is to take the first step, and gradually grow.

    All the best,


  7. Thank you for sharing your experience, I will continue with my step by step process, our lovely planet need it urgently!

  8. Congratulations Juan Pablo, it is so nice that people are starting to value the most important things God gave us. Hope everyone of us can help to leave a better world to our children.

  9. Thank you Juan Pablo. What you have shared is so nourishing and valuable. How often do I feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by all the information that is available! It is good to be reminded how important and valuable every step is on the path no matter how small. May we all keep moving and growing.

  10. It is essential to the awareness of each of us towards our planet and to our environment, I hope each of us choose to begin our journey into the future small steps, to help our planet and ourselves, Thank you for showing how to start, new hope ideas soon!

  11. It is essential to the awareness of each of us towards our planet and to our environment, I hope each of us choose to begin our journey into the future small steps, to help our planet and ourselves, Thank you for showing how to start,hope new ideas soon!

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