Permaculture is built on the ethics of earth care, people care and fair share, and is practically applied through 12 different principles.

These principles provide the outline for which to begin and continue permaculture as a system and lifestyle to work with nature towards a healthier planet.

The twelve principles include aspects of design, adapting projects, and using resources.

12 Principles of Permaculture

1. Observe and Interact

Permaculture is adaptable to all environments, climates, and cultures. But to do so successfully one must start by observation; understanding the unique challenges of a given location and interacting with nature to understand the best steps forward.

This is not just a one-time first step, but the emphasis here truly is continually learning.

2. Collect and Store Energy

Permaculture emphasizes reusing and re-directing energy as much as possible, this is vital to remaining sustainable. That can be energy from sunlight energy, but could also be hydro-energy or how rainwater is collected, food energy, and many more inventive ways.

Example: It’s one thing to collect rainwater in barrels for domestic use – but you may have an abundance and find you cannot practically store it all. 

Another permaculture approach would be to use natural landscaping designs for optimal irrigation around your property: swales and basins to replenish groundwater, to prevent swampy areas from flooding so that your garden gets water where it needs it without drowning your plants.

3. Obtain a Yield

Permaculture has the principle of tangible rewards for the work involved.

“What’s the carrot?” is the question – not only what is the physical (often edible) yield obtained from the efforts of permaculture (such as harvests), but what are the other, measurable rewards?

A healthier lifestyle, a healthier environment, less waste, improved immune systems, and better mental health are all measurable outcomes of choosing a permaculture lifestyle.

4. Self-regulation and Feedback

It would be contradictory to practice sustainable growing methods while also continuing to waste non-renewable resources in daily life.

Self-regulation and feedback mean a total lifestyle shift toward sustainability; making choices that align with a permaculture lifestyle.

This could mean re-considering purchases and stepping away from consumerism, reusing and recycling as much as possible, and changing the source of power or energy used daily.

5. Renewables: Use and Value them

Sun, wind, and water are some of the most powerful forms of reusable energy and are highly preferred over fossil fuels that are limited, contribute to pollution, and are the cause of so many global conflicts in the world.

Choosing renewable forms of energy truly hits all three ethics of permaculture: it is better for the earth, discourages corruption and greed which harms people, and will have a more positive impact on future generations than fossil fuels.

6. Produce No Waste

Some things feel impossible until you try, and the suggestion of ‘zero waste’ may seem like this, at first. However, as other principles of permaculture (such as self-regulation) are drawn in, and individuals take a hard look at their purchases, small shifts can greatly reduce unnecessary waste.

Thankfully, for many items, there are unlimited means of composting, reusing, and recycling; whether at home, for domestic animals, or in the garden. For permaculture communities, such as eco-villages, sharing unwanted or unused items with others further helps to reduce (or even eliminate) waste.


  • Purchasing items in recycled or reusable packaging instead of single-use plastics
  • Reusing items as much as possible
  • Finding creative ways to use all parts of a plant (banana leaves for plates or packaging, dry grass and seeds for crafts)
  • Compost leftover food and parts of plants after harvest
  • Old clothes: donate or cut up for cleaning rags

7. Design with Patterns first

Step back and take in the big picture before hashing out the details. It is easy to get lost in small steps and lose sight of the main goal. This principle of utilizing patterns helps to avoid being distracted by the small things and encourages thinking wholistically during the design stage.

This can be applied to designing a home, building a garden, or even urban planning.

8. Integrate – don’t segregate

Elements in a permaculture design should ideally have multiple functions. Not only is this better in regards to resources and energy use, but it typically makes an approach much stronger, too.

Ideas of integration include using trees not only as windbreaks for your field but planting ones that produce fruit or nuts, too. This way, land is better managed, water and other resources are saved and the trees are integrated into the larger property.

Systems with elements that work together toward a shared goal are usually stronger because they rely on each other. If one breaks, the entire system is not likely to collapse, as would happen with an approach dependent on segregated components.

9. Small and Slow Solutions

Just as it remains important to keep a holistic mindset for design, the approach should embrace “slow and steady” over speedy. Quick returns and fast food have led to the destruction of the earth.

Slow and small solutions are more easily adapted and able to be conformed toward positive changes. Over time, the small changes build and create a shift; sometimes a massive one.

This could be seen by:

  • Changing one’s washing machine to a more energy and water-efficient one
  • Committing to avoiding fast fashion and purchasing staple pieces you will wear for years
  • Opting for public transportation or cycling over driving a car to work every day
  • Starting with three chickens as a ‘trial run’ for raising your eggs and reducing food waste.
  • Getting a compost bin instead of throwing food scraps away

10. Use and Value Diversity

Diversity is vital to all systems, from gardens to human societies. Just as planting only one type of crop will eventually drain the soil of nutrients, a lack of diversity will also harm the sustainability of a project or community and could result in it being vulnerable because it is resistant to change.

Companion planting is an easy agricultural example of the importance of cooperation and working together, but it’s essential to healthy communities, too. Diverse experiences, perspectives, and approaches to life’s challenges work to make strong, sustainable societies.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Not only should we strive to eliminate waste, but also seek to incorporate everything ‘in the margins’: from how land is used and buildings are constructed (and everything in between).

This can result in some creative solutions.

Inventive approaches to modern problems often come from those ‘in the margins’, who look and think about things in unique ways, instead of the common perspectives usually found in the ‘center’, so to speak.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

In permaculture, change is not bad, it is welcomed.

It is how we respond to change, and even possibly find ways to creatively use it to our advantage that makes all the difference.

One aspect of this approach in permaculture is designing for the future – which means designing for change. The approach we use today should look different – even if only slightly – in 10 years.

Climates, seasons, and cities all change, so should we.