Economics (6m 54s)

“Permaculture has nothing to do with economics and it has everything to do with economics.”  -Pavitra

The principle for the economics chapter is to make more than we spend. Produce more than we consume. In this chapter, we will talk about:

  • Village economics
  • Alternative economics

We have talked throughout this course about how to produce things and grow things. Now we’ll talk about how to calculate what we produced. How do we calculate the fruits of our explosion.

Village economics

Now you’ve designed your site, think about the full cycle, how can the energy you put in come back to you in some form cash? Starting a guesthouse is like hanging a sign outside your door. When you hang it, people come. And they are usually happy to pay a fair amount to stay and eat or do whatever at your place.

Solitude, in Auroville, run by Krishna, has at least 5 different kinds of income coming in. He run a café from his farm food, sells produce, hosts festivals, plays in a band, has a volunteer program. Stability through diversity.

How is your site unique? What benefits and amenities can your site offer? What are the local attractions or other communities you could support? What are you interested in?

In Nepal at Mango Tree, Devendra offers canyoning tours and a nice place to stay for tourists going along the circuit. In Saelao, Bob is positioned right next to the Blue Lagoon, one of the main tourist attractions in Vang Vieng, the local town. He has dozens of tourists who pass by his place each day. He does very well.

Here are some common ways to make money at a permaculture site:

  1. Start a nursery – You can’t have enough seeds or plants. The more they grow the more valuable they become.
  2. Sell produce – Join a CSA to develop a good, repeat customer base. At the Art of Living Permaculture site in Bangalore, they sell compost by the kilo, they sell seeds and they sell produce through the local organic ashram market shop.
  3. Start an earth brick company making and selling earth bricks
  4. Set up your site to be a host site for other courses – There are many people who have skills they could teach. If you provide them a place to teach, you can host courses and even learn something new yourself.
  5. Volunteers – People are okay to pay $8-10 a day to work and stay on your land. Hosting volunteers is a great way to create revenue.
  6. Hostel/guesthouse – Providing guesthouse accommodations is a great way to create residual income with not much work once it’s all set up. Plenty of people like to keep to themselves. If you can provide a place for people to stay, chances are you’ll be able to find someone to fill that space.

For more information, here’s a good article about Successful Permaculture Farms:

Alternative economics

We are used to measuring wealth only in the form of money. One single unit of exchange.

Let’s explore other ways of measuring wealth. Following are 8 ways to measure one’s wealth: social, material, living, experiential, cultural, intellectual, spiritual, financial. This list was arranged by Ethan Roland of Appleseed Permaculture, or he at least promoted these more online.

Those are the 8 different types of capital. What are some examples?

Capital                        Examples

Social              Connections, influence, relationships, Facebook

Material          Car, house, clothes, things you own

Living              Soil, plants, animals, water bodies, land, living organisms, ecosystems, your body

Experiential   Risks taken, embodied experience, wisdom

Cultural          Story, ritual, music, traditions, cultural values

Intellectual     Ideas, knowledge, words, images, intellectual property

Spiritual         Meditation, karma, spiritual attainment

Financial         Money, investments

Now, we’ll explore how each form of capital can be measured:

Capital                        Measured by

Social              Who we know

Material          What we own

Living              What we grow

Experiential   Risks we take

Cultural          Where we go

Intellectual     What we know

Spiritual         What we believe

Financial         How much we have

In this final set of comparisons, we’ll explore ways to gain wealth, as it relates to these alternative forms of currencies:

Capital                        How to gain wealth (“How to be rich”)

Social              Be friendly to many people, have good relationships

Material          Share your possessions

Living              Grow many plants

Experiential   Take risks

Cultural          Deep roots (be grounded at home), broad shoots (and


Intellectual     Learn, teach, be curious

Spiritual         Practice good human values

Financial         Accrue and share your wealth

That’s about it for the economics chapter. Thank you for your time.