From the moment that we really understand permaculture and what it is all about, we enter some kind of transition. Permaculture is not just what goes on in our gardens, rather it is what we brush our teeth with, every single thing we buy, everything we throw away and, in fact, what we do with every moment of the day.
It requires us to take personal responsibility and it informs how we live. Quite often it challenges major aspects of our existing lives and the pull to be working on the land and engaged in permaculture activities is immense. It makes it hard to be indoors and hard to be involved in activities that are not in line with permaculture principles.
The question on many ‘born again’ Permaculturist’s lips is: How can I make the transition from where I am now to where I want to be?
So, many of us have the dream to live in a wild setting with lots of land, but the reality is that we need to learn to adapt the space that we find ourselves in now and apply the principles. Some of the most inspiring permaculture designs can be found in cities, on rooftops and in areas where there is no useful soil.
So it is with a business idea.
In an ideal world, we would be able to live without money. Maybe. But the reality is that we do need money in our society and the challenge for many of us is how we generate income in ethical and satisfying ways.
I speak to lots of people who are not short of skills, talents, products and ideas, but they struggle to get those ideas to market.
Not everyone who takes a PDC course will end up being a Permaculture design consultant in the absolute sense of the word, but we can all apply permaculture principles to marketing an idea that will facilitate the transition to a full time Permaculture lifestyle.
In the same way that plants thrive when we work with nature, so too will your business ideas work when you enlist nature’s help. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself that will help you draw up a design:
- Does my idea care for the Earth?
- Does my idea care for the people who will be involved in it? How can it serve the ecosystems that it exists within?
- How can I share the surplus with others within these ecosystems to create symbiotic relationships?
- When I stand back and observe, what do I see? When I take time to interact, what do I hear?
- How can I catch and store energy so that my business idea is not dependent on non-renewable resources in the long run? Sometimes storing energy is about offering some of your products or services for free to get you started. You will find that the act of giving will boomerang back to you in wonderful and mysterious ways.
- Will my business idea obtain a yield? Part of the yield should include happiness that comes from doing something that you love. If it doesn’t, go back to the drawing board. Can part of the yield be about swapping products or services with other people?
- What do other people think of my idea? Ask people, apply the feedback and self-regulate. If you are stuck for ideas, brainstorm with your friends and family and find out what they think you could sell.
- Does my idea use renewable resources and services? Could it go on and on in the absence of fossil fuels? If it doesn’t, how could it? Work out how your idea could be multi-functional and work well to help maintain other parts of the community.
- Does my idea produce waste? This includes wasting your time on something that does not produce a yield. Better still, could my idea help to deal with existing waste by turning it into something useful?
- How can I draw on patterns in nature to grow a perennial business that exists within a harmonious guild? What are the details of this? What are the things that I can plant now that will benefit the earth in 200 years, 20 years, 5 years, next year and now? How can I stack my activities to create a maximum yield using minimum resources and energy? How can nature assist me?
- How can I integrate this idea with my community?
- Am I being realistic in what I want to achieve? How will I know that I am progressing at a manageable pace and don’t make the changes prematurely? What small steps could I take today to turn my idea into reality?
- How can I bring diversity into my ideas so that I don’t have all my eggs in one basket?
- What is it that my idea has that is a bit different to stuff that is already out there? In what way is it on the fringes and edges? How can I value those differences?
- How can I allow my ideas to change and evolve and continue to meet people’s needs?
Small businesses are currently driving the UK economy forward and this is very exciting. We have an opportunity for grassroots change. Local economy is the way forward to ensure that we all have enough.
There is no more "get rich quick", or even slow — it’s time to get real. Everything in nature has a function, it is all about working out what your function is and cracking on.
Kay Hebbourn lives and works from home in the little market town of Ulverston in the English Lake District. She has her own permaculture scheme going on in the neighbourhood and is a part of the Ulverston Permaculture Project and Incredible Edible Ulverston. She is also one of the members of Keep Ulverston Special, an activist group who are busy keeping supermarkets out of Ulverston. To earn actual money, Kay works as a website builder and does social media and internet marketing as well as selling products from the garden. She is making the leap to setting up a Permaculture design business with some other local Permaculturists.