1. Relative Location:

 Putting things in the right place to make connections

 2. Each element performs many functions:

 The more functional (useful) connections, the better (more productive, more enduring)

3.  Each major function is supported by many elements:

 Provide for basic needs (eg water, food, shade) in several ways

4. Energy efficient planning:

 Use site, microclimate and zone analysis; work within energy flows

5. Using biological resources: 

Use rain, plants and animals to do the work (eg geese grazing, worms aerating, living fences, moisture)

6. Energy cycling:

Recycle and increase energy and catch, store and use energy on site to fullest potential, creating cycles

7.  Space: small scale intensive systems:

Start at the back door and work out…intensively managed systems are more productive…use stacking of plants and animals

8. Time: accelerating succession and evolution:

Imitate natural systems but make it happen faster…raising levels of organic matter, introducing pioneer and climax species (soils)

9. Diversity:

 Polycultural systems increase sum of yields…not number of elements but number of functional connections

10  Edge effects: 

Productivity increases at the boundary of two systems…maximise edges on site (patterns)

11.  Attitudinal principles (Mollison-isms): 

Everything works both ways…turn problems into solutions

Permaculture is information and imagination intensive - quality of thought determines yield

Long and protracted thought rather than thoughtless careless actions













Observe. Use protracted and thoughtful observation rather than prolonged and thoughtless action. Observe the site and its elements in all seasons. Design for specific sites, clients, and cultures. a

Connect. Use relative location: Place elements in ways that create useful relationships and time-saving connections among all parts. The number of connections among elements creates a healthy, diverse ecosystem, not the number of elements.

Catch and store energy and materials. Identify, collect, and hold useful flows. Every cycle is an opportunity for yield, every gradient (in slope, charge, heat, etc.) can produce energy. Re-investing resources builds capacity to capture yet more resources.

Each element performs multiple functions. Choose and place each element in a system to perform as many functions as possible. Beneficial connections between diverse components create a stable whole. Stack elements in both space and time.

Each function is supported by multiple elements. Use multiple methods to achieve important functions and to create synergies. Redundancy protects when one or more elements fail.

Make the least change for the greatest effect. Find the “leverage points” in the system and intervene there, where the least work accomplishes the most change.

Use small scale, intensive systems. Start at your doorstep with the smallest systems that will do the job, and build on your successes, with variations. Grow by chunking.

Principles for Living and Energy Systems

Optimize edge. The edge—the intersection of two environments—is the most diverse place in a system, and is where energy and materials accumulate or are transformed. Increase or decrease edge as appropriate.

Collaborate with succession. Systems will evolve over time, often toward greater diversity and productivity. Work with this tendency, and use design to jump-start succession when needed.

Use biological and renewable resources. Renewable resources (usually living beings and their products) reproduce and build up over time, store energy, assist yield, and interact with other elements.


Turn problems into solutions. Constraints can inspire creative design. “We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities.”—Pogo (Walt Kelly)

Get a yield. Design for both immediate and long-term returns from your efforts: “You can’t work on an empty stomach.” Set up positive feedback loops to build the system and repay your investment.

The biggest limit to abundance is creativity. The designer’s imagination and skill limit productivity and diversity more than any physical limit.

Mistakes are tools for learning. Evaluate your trials. Making mistakes is a sign you’re trying to do things better.

Rules for resource use:

Ranked from regenerative to degenerative, different resources can:

increase with use;

be lost when not used;

be unaffected by use;

be lost by use;

pollute or degrade systems with use.

Everything is connected: Abundance, health and happiness come not from things, but relationships.  Money can’t buy me love! As designers, we look at connections in space and time.  If we put things in the right place, do things in the right order and at the right time, we save work, money and energy. “To every thing, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” We look at flows between things—flows of water, energy, nutrients, information.  Every time we link things together, we create more abundance than when they are separated.

Nature Moves in Circles: Birth, growth, death and regeneration—everything in nature is part of a cycle. Waste is food—one thing’s waste is another things’ resource.  So—produce no waste, re-use, recycle, and look for places where we can close loops—find a use for a former waste product.  Pollution is an unused resource. To maintain the cycle, we must give back.  If we use a resource, we must replenish it.

Energy is abundant but not unlimited: Every day the sun shines down on the earth, showering us with energy.  The sun’s energy gives us our solar budget—that extra that creates growth and abundance.  But we must use it wisely.  So—catch and store energy.  Cycle energy and resources multiple times.  Use renewable energy.


Do more with less: Make a way out of no way.  Kill two birds with one stone (sorry for that!).  Every element serves more than one function—so choose and place it carefully.   A climbing rose, in the right place, might produce a bouquet, filter the wind, and keep out intruders. Use on-site and local resources whenever possible. Let nature do the work—if you can use a biological resource, chances are it will be cheaper, easier and more effective than chemical or mechanical means.


If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Work smarter, not harder!  Use your eyes and your brains more, and your money, your muscles and your fossil fuels less.  Look before you leap.   Observing, thinking, designing and planning can save you time, sweat and money.

 Resilience is true security: Value diversity—for diversity creates resilience.  This is true for ecosystems, gardens and humans!   Give your plants the right companions in guilds, polycultures and crop rotations. Edges and margins, where two things meet, are often more dynamic and creative than either one alone, so make use of them. Have more than one way to fill a need—don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Have more than one source for food, energy, income, etc. Make mistakes—carefully!  Start slow and small so you can try new things and tweak what doesn’t work. Weak links and constraints—design for the limiting factors.  Design for catastrophe—the hundred year flood could come tomorrow!

Small-scale, intensive systems are more diverse, creative and resilient than giant megasystems.

Build from the ground up: First things first.   Prepare the soil before you plant the seeds.  Respect the roots of culture, place, and people as well as plants. In nature, there’s a succession of evolution—pioneer plants prepare the ground, grasses move in, then trees….work with those patterns to speed them up or hold them back.

 Take responsibility: Feed what you want to grow.  Create the conditions that will favor the things or behaviors you want, rather than making war on what you don’t want.  Trying to kill the pests simply breeds resistance. You break it—you bought it.  If you change something, you become responsible for the consequences.

Monitor and maintain what you create.  Permaculture systems rarely work perfectly at first—they are living things that need adjustment.

Get some!  Obtain a yield: You’ve got to get back for what you put in.  You have a right to a life of health, abundance, joy and beauty—and that’s why we’re doing this. Grow what you want to eat.  Decide what yield you want, and plan for it. Get the biggest bang for the buck—observation, creativity and planning will let you use the least amount of time, money and energy to get the benefits you desire.  Don’t use a chainsaw to cut your cheese. The gift multiplies.  Nature is generous—when we give freely, we create more abundance for everyone.

Creativity is an unlimited resource: Nurture creativity in nature and in people, and you will reap rich rewards. Focus on solutions rather than just complaining about problems.  The problem is the solution. Look for ways to add creativity and you will add value.