Discover how permaculture communities are changing the way people live from an independent, technology-focused society to a greener, eco-minded lifestyle.
Many people have started to yearn for something more. As they look around their immediate surroundings and take stock about what is important, they often wonder, “Could we do this better?”
The concept of permaculture in gardening is to create an environment where each part of the design works to benefit the whole. The garden is designed to take care of itself. Where plants are selected not only for their individual attributes but also for their companion properties.
But the garden is only one part of the principles of permaculture. These principals also include a holistic way that humans, structures and the garden work together as one to provide for each other.
Now, what if we combined that gardening concept and brought it into our way of living together as people? Where we use not only the available resources of the land to sustain us as individuals, but also the larger community. This is what we now call a permaculture community.
What is a Permaculture Community?
A permaculture community is a group of people living in a self-sustaining ecosystem. The goal is to live in harmony with the environment in an eco-friendly way.
The community will typically have a shared garden, a renewable energy source such as solar, home-schooling co-operatives, and common exercise or social spaces. Conservation and recycling are prominent within the community as they strive to reduce their collective carbon footprint.
There are many names for this community-based style of living. Eco-villages, eco-communities, and intentional communities all use the same permaculture concepts.
How Does This Differ From Traditional Neighborhoods?
Consider the traditional suburban neighborhood where everyone has a lawn and landscaping plants for aesthetics. Then we truck in our food from farms on the other side of town. Or sometimes even on the other side of the country.
People live separate lives. You may socialize with your neighbors and even share the occasional meal, but when it comes to providing the basics for your family, you are on your own. There is no sharing of resources or formal method of supporting each other in times of need.
Another way to live is to create a planned community built on permaculture principles.
The goal of the permaculture community is to merge where we live with what we eat. Then work together to harvest our common resources in a responsible manner. So we enrich the land around us instead of depleating it.
How Is Permaculture Similiar to Ecotherapy?
Permaculture communities demonstrate the same principles as ecotherapy, where we as humans are intimately connected with the land.
Ecotherapy is more focused on our spiritual health. Developing a closer relationship with nature brings us peace and the feeling of being connecting to the larger world.
A permaculture community is more focused on sustaining our bodies. Developing an ecosystem where we get our food from the same land we live on. Then nurture the land so it continues to grow and be fruitful.
Both have strong roots in conservation. And both are important to our overall health and happiness.
Consider these two examples – a larger community-based eco-village in Costa Rica and a simple family living the permaculture lifestyle.
Eco-Village Style Permaculture Communities
Example 1: La Ecovilla’s permaculture community in San Mateo, Costa Rica
This Costa Rican permaculture neighborhood has 44 lots with 47 families living inside the community. They live in a beautifully diverse and productive space with food crops growing throughout the property. There is wild spinach growing next to the pond. Banana and mango trees overhead. A community garden where they grow vegetables, herbs, and other edible plants. Also growing on the property are cashew trees, cacao, breadfruit, avocados, and elderberry. Everywhere you walk there is something to nourish your body.
The real wealth of the community is the sustainable nature of the design. Not only do they have food gardens throughout the landscape, but there is also a yoga center and school. You take care of the land & the land takes care of you.
The founder Stephen Brooks said it very simply.
People are ready to live differently.
Family Style Permaculture Communities
Example 2: A family’s sustainable garden and connection to their community.
On a smaller scale, is a family living a simple, sustainable life based on permaculture principles. They own a 1/4 acre plot in a small Australian town. The family’s goal was to find a way back to a connection with the living things that make living possible.
The family lives by maximizing the natural resources provided by the Earth instead of the products born out of a technology-driven society. By living in a household designed with permaculture concepts, the family slowly removed all the extra “little things” from their lives. First, they did away with supermarkets, cars, and plastic. Then finally, they transitioned to a wood heater to heat the home, dry the clothes and cook the food.
They focus on community sufficiency, not self-sufficiency, and belong to a food co-op that doubles as a learning and social space. Both maintain part-time jobs outside the home and run a small B&B on the property. But the majority of their time is spent with the family.
And while their household income is technically below the poverty line at 30k, they feel they live a full, rich life.
They are teaching their kids that the real wealth in this world is relationships. Time spent with family and accruing knowledge to live a better lifestyle. That is the real gift and makes you super resilient in the face of any adversity.
Is Community Living For You?
Creating a permaculture community takes a bit of planning and practice. There will be some ideas that are great successes and some that will take a bit of rethinking. But, the idea is very appealing to many people.
The idea that we can create a sustainable environment where we grow our own food and provide our own fuel is very exciting. Imagine never having to worry again about the pesticides in your food or if you have enough money for gas. Then we add into the mix the support of our friends and neighbors as we all work together to create a cleaner environment and it’s hard not to be excited by the concept.
The trend is clear as more eco-villages are popping up around the country, America is ready for a change. And thank goodness we seem to be heading in the right direction. While living in a planned community may not be for everyone, we can all make small changes in our lifestyles to adopt some of the same permaculture concepts and create a healthier world for generations to come.