Permaculture Design/Ethics, principles, methods and outcomes

Collaborative research project. Feel free to use the discussion tab at the top of this page to discuss this topic. Use the resources from the Permaculture design course, and conduct your own research and add summarised notes here to produce a useful quick reference page for others.

Permaculture contains ethics that lead to principles. Some of the ethics overlap the principles. The principles lead to methods. The principles and the methods overlap each-other. The methods lead to outcomes. The outcomes overlap everything because it works like the our cells work in our body. It is a self regulating perpetual cycle, and we are part of it. There is no "one solution." To me, permaculture is the synergy of all elements. Capt Benny Pants, an online participant in the Permaculture Design Course 2008.


  • Earthcare – recognising that the Earth is the source of all life (and is possibly itself a living entity- see Gaia theory) and that we recognise and respect that the Earth is our valuable home and we are a part of the Earth, not apart from it.
For example:
  • Conservation of Biodiversity
  • Clean air and water
  • Restoration and conservation of forests, habitats and soils
  • Recycling and pollution reduction
  • Conservation of energy and natural resources
  • Appropriate technology
  • Peoplecare – supporting and helping each other to change to ways of living that are not harming ourselves or the planet, and to develop healthy societies.
For example
  • Health and well-being
  • Nourishment with good food
  • Lifelong learning
  • Right livelihood and meaningful work
  • Community belonging
  • Open Communication
  • Trust and Respect
  • Fairshare (or placing limits on consumption) - ensuring that the Earth's limited resources are utilised in ways that are equitable and wise. Also if a wall retains heat, pass on the heat to a plant that needs it; if a plant provides shelter, place it on a wall that needs cooling.
For example
  • Co-operation
  • Networking and sharing
  • Distribution of resources and wealth
  • Reduction of consumerism
  • Rethinking current notions of growth, progress and development
  • Making a contribution



These restatements of the principles of permaculture appear in David Holmgren's Permaculture: [Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability]; Also see;

  1. Observe and interact - By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and store energy - By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield - Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback - We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services - Make the best use of natures abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce no waste - By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details - By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate - By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use small and slow solutions - Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and value diversity - Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal - The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change - We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.



There can be any number of methods for designing permaculture. The methods you develop should be informed by the ethics and principles above.



Outcomes are the things that result from the methods. Outcomes should be accountable to the ethics and principles, and if they deviate, either the method must be reviewed, or the ethics and principles adjusted.