Permaculture Principle #5 - Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

Image courtesy of João Vítor Heinrichs

Give and Take

This design principle ties neatly into the idea of self-regulation discussed in the previous principle. As with any relationship, there is give and take like the one which we have with the Earth. The Earth's various ecosystems naturally provide us with the renewable resources we need to live.

Image courtesy of Gerd Altman

If used prudently and protected, they will regenerate themselves indefinitely, remaining intact for future generations. To live sustainably within this framework, it is important to understand how to use renewable resources appropriately. 


Recognizing that not using resources to their fullest potential is as wasteful as overconsuming less abundant resources. 

Important in Permaculture design is creating systems that take advantage of high-yielding resources.  In an efficient system, if possible, every element will serve more than one function and many resources produce passive as well as active yields.  

Rule of Thumb

A good rule of thumb is to keep self-sufficiency at the forefront of thinking – to limit the need for outside resources.  Remember that if your garden, health, finances, or any other aspect of your lifestyle is dependent upon anything non-renewable, it is inevitably destined to fail.

Garden Example(s)

This is probably the principle that people are most familiar with even if they don’t know anything about Permaculture. It involves asking questions about how much of a given resource can be consumed before its sustainability is overstressed thus damaging its ability to rejuvenate and grow.

It’s a balance between giving and taking. If there is an element or by-product of any system that cannot be reintroduced into a recycle/rejuvenate loop it is then considered a non-renewable byproduct.

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The Chicken

Think of the well-worn example of the chicken.  From this humble creature, we can actively gain eggs and meat but will also passively benefit from its role in pest control and soil fertilization. Breeding chickens on a small scale is relatively easy and provides a form of food security.

A Little Seedy

We know the importance of seed harvesting and seed swaps to prevent our dependency upon seed manufacturers for our source.  We need to protect our seeds as closely as we protect the money in our bank accounts. By swapping seeds, we strengthen and diversify our food supply ensuring we can feed generations to come.

Image courtesy of hands Joshua Lanzarini

Health Example

This principle can be applied to human resources, taking care not to deplete them.  Let’s consider the example of a medical system that has its own set of limits that need to be respected.  

Opting for increased control over as many aspects of your own health care will decrease the demands placed on this system.  To this end, prevention – a personal emphasis on healthy eating and fitness - can be the first line of defense as well as choosing carefully what you feed your mind. 

Eat Your Medicine

Creating holistic medicines by growing a wide range of complimentary medicinal plants/herbs is a fantastic and renewable way to reduce your dependency on the pharmaceutical industry. 

Image courtesy of Lisa Fotios

Eating organic food grown in your garden not only keeps you healthier but also reduces waste from packaging and the pollution from shipping. the products. 

Natural Birth

Some people have chosen to reclaim the birthing process from the wasteful and expensive hands of institutionalized medicine by opting for natural home childbirth births. 

Home births have a much higher chance of experiencing a natural, physiologic birth, and a much lower chance of undergoing unnecessary medical procedures. In most instances, home births, usually are attended by a competent midwife who provides the necessary medical equipment to ensure a safe and healthy birth.

Image courtesy of Myriams Fotos

The entire health system is unsustainable with components from R&D and manufacturing to shipping and distribution.  Take your health care into your own hands. Spend less. Waste less. Feel better.

Financial   Example(s)

This topic is so big it needs its own series but to encapsulate the concept I’d like you to take inventory of your current job and analyze what, if any, elements of it are non-renewable.

  • Can those non-renewable resources be replaced with ones that are renewable?
  • Can you eliminate those non-renewable resources altogether?
  • Would your job still be doable without the non-renewable resources?
  • Would your company still be able to make a profit without the non-renewable resources?

Imagine if everyone who is employed worked at businesses that were 100% renewal in all their process from conception to sale.  What would that look like? Even if the standard was 75% it still would make an incredible impact. 

I recognize that many businesses work hard at implementing renewable processes such as recycling programs, and building automation systems that efficiently use energy, and employees working from home require less office space to be leased. 

Image courtesy of Gerd Altman

However, we must continue to look deeper into the systems we use and uncover any imbued non-renewable resources that can be re-designed. When a business outsources any aspect of its processes or manufacturing it can lose a certain degree of control so doing your research is extremely important.  If we demand that vendors use and provide renewal products/services and if we boycott those who do not comply then we have a fighting chance. 

 Vote with Your Dollars.

 Below is a brief list of examples of ways that a small farm business might use to generate sustainable revenue:

  • Market suitability plan; Make urban group connections to buy directly from specific farmers i.e. restaurants, schools, and assisted living facilities.
  • Revenue or income from unused spaces.
  • Formation of local credit thus recycling money into the local economy.
  • Vehicle pooling with neighbors, friends and family
  • Work exchange with neighbors and urban dwellers.
  • Produce and marking co-ops.
  • Perform the process of livestock, poultry, produce & oils on-site and sell excess products.

Refining and Mitigating

Have fun with this principle and develop the habit of asking if this practice I’m about to engage in is sustainable or not.  The goal isn’t to be perfect but to keep refining and mitigating until we have successfully replaced our existing non-sustainable systems with ones that are. 

I like to think of it as my one thing, the one thing am I most proud of that I recently changed that improved my life and shrunk my footprint.  It should be a continuous practice of improvement to incrementally remove the non-sustainable, wasteful, and pollutive practices from our lives.

Questions to ask;

  • Where can you cut the middleman out and buy directly from farmers, craftspeople, and others who are practicing sustainable practices? 
  • What things can you upcycle instead of throwing out? 
  • Are there negative, energy-draining people that you need to cycle out of your life
  • What wasteful time sucks do you need to eliminate?
  • Are you consistently renewing yourself physically, mentally and emotionally?
  • What features in your home and garden can serve two purposes?
  • How can you reduce commutes to recycle that time for more productive activities?


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Please consider taking action on any of the tips or recommendations found on our site to create a more sustainable, healthy, and abundant life