Permaculture Principles by Bill Mollison - World Permaculture Association (2023)

  • Relative location.
  • Each element performs multiple functions.
  • Each function is supported by many elements.
  • Energy efficient planning.
  • Using biological resources.
  • Energy cycling.
  • Small-scale intensive systems.
  • Natural plant succession and stacking.
  • Polyculture and diversity of species.
  • Increasing “edge” within a system.
  • Observe and replicate natural patterns.
  • Pay attention to scale.
  • Attitude:

Everything works both ways – Every resource is either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the use made of it.

(Video) What is Permaculture? By Bill Mollison, David Holmgren

Permaculture is information and imagination-intensive – It is the quality of thought and the information we use that determines yield, not the size or quality of the site.

Practical Design Considerations

  • The systems we construct should last as long as possible and take least maintenance.
  • These systems, fueled by the sun, should produce not only their own needs, but also the needs of those creating and managing them. Thus they are “sustainable, as they sustain both themselves and those who construct them.
  • We can use energy to construct these systems, providing that in their lifetime, they store or conserve more energy than we use to construct them or to maintain them (EROEI>1).

Elements of a total Permaculture Design

The Design – the harmonious integration of landscape and people:

(Video) Dryland Permaculture Strategies Bill Mollison

  • Site Components – water, earth, landscape, climate, plants.
  • Energy Components – technologies, connections, structures, sources.
  • Abstract Components – timing, data, ethics.
  • Social Components – legal aids, people, culture, trade & finance.

A more detailed explanation of the aforementioned is provided in the following:

  • Relative Location – Components placed in a system are viewed relatively, not in isolation.
  • Functional Relationship Between Components – Everything is connected to everything else.
  • Recognize Functional Relationships Between Elements – Every function is supported by many elements.
  • Functional Redundancy – Good design ensures that all important functions can withstand the failure of one or more elements. Design backups.
  • Every Element is Supported by Many Functions/Functional Design – Each element and component we include in a system is chosen and placed so that it performs as many functions as possible. Every essential function should be supported by many components.
  • The Basic Rule of Energy Conservation – Every element (plant, animal or structure) must be placed so that it serves at least two or more functions. Every function (e.g. water collection, fire protection) is served in two or more ways.
  • Local Focus – “Think globally – Act locally” Grow your own food, cooperate with neighbors. Community efficiency not self-sufficiency.
  • Diversity – As a general rule, as sustainable systems mature they become increasingly diverse in both space and time. What is important is the complexity of the functional relationships that exist between elements not the number of elements.
  • Placement Principle – If broad initial patterning is well analysed, and good placements made, many more advantages than we would have designed for become obvious – OR, if we start well, other good things naturally follow as an unplanned result.
  • Use Biological Resources – We know living things reproduce and build up their availability over time, assisted by their interaction with other compatible elements. Use and reserve biological intelligence.
  • One Calorie In/One Calorie Out (Energy Returned Over Energy Invested or EROEI) – Do not consume or export more biomass than carbon fixed by the solar budget.
  • Stocking – Finding the balance of various elements to keep one from overpowering another over time. How much of an element needs to be produced in order to fulfill the need of whole system?
  • Stacking – Multiple functions provided by each element and component (stacking functions). Multilevel/Scaffolded garden design, i.e., trellising, forest garden, vines, groundcovers, etc.
  • Succession – Recognize that certain elements prepare the way for systems to support other elements in the future, i.e.: succession planting.
  • Use Onsite Resources – Determine what resources are available and entering the system on their own and maximize their use.
  • Edge Effect – Ecotones are the most diverse and fertile area in a system. Two ecosystems come together to form a third which has more diversity than either of the other two, i.e.: edges of ponds, forests, meadows, currents etc. Permaculture has been referred to as ‘Edge Culture’.
  • Energy Recycling – Yields from system designed to supply onsite needs and/or needs of local region.
  • Small Scale – Intensive Systems start small and create a system that is manageable and produces a high yield.
  • Make the Least Change for the Greatest Effect – The less change that is generated, the less embedded energy is used to endow the system.
  • Planting Strategy (selection criteria) – 1st priority are proven native species, 2nd priority are proven exotic/non-native species, 3rd priority are unproven exotics/marginal species (the designed provision of microclimates could make them viable) – carefully on small scale with lots of observation.
  • Work Within Nature – Aiding the natural (biogeochemical) cycles results in higher yield and less work. A little support goes a long way.
  • Appropriate Technology – The same principles apply to cooking, lighting, transportation, heating, sewage treatment, water and other utilities.
  • Law of Return – Whatever we take, we must return. Every object must responsibly provide for its replacement. Natural systems demand a return for every gift received (“the user must pay”).
  • Principle of Stress and Harmony – Stress may be defined as either prevention of natural function, or of forced function. Harmony may be defined as the integration of chosen and natural functions – and the easy supply of essential needs. Forcing a design element to function is a different proposition than putting it in a position where its natural or everyday behaviours permit benefits to other parts of the system. It is the design approach itself that permits components to provide many functions without forcing functions upon that element.
  • Principle of Cooperation – Cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of future survival and of existing life systems.
  • The Problem is the Solution – We are the problem, we are the solution. Turn constraints into resources. Mistakes are tools for learning.
  • Limits to Yield – The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited; the only limit on the number of possible/potential uses of a resource is the limit of available information and the imagination, comprehension, understanding, and ability of the designer or manager of the system.
  • Everything Gardens – or has an effect on its environment.
  • Dispersal of Yield Over Time – As expressed by the principal of considering the impact of decisions made in the present on “seven generations” into the future. We can use energy to construct these systems, providing that in their lifetime, they store or conserve more energy that we use to construct them or to maintain them.
  • Policy of Responsibility (to relinquish power & control) – The role of successful design is to create a self-managed system.
  • Policy of Resource Management – prohibits the use of resources which permanently reduce yields of sustainable resources, e.g. pollutants, persistent poisons, radioactives, large areas of concrete and highways, sewers from city to sea, etc.
  • Principle of Disorder – Order and harmony produce energy for other uses. Disorder consumes energy to no useful end. Neatness, tidiness, uniformity, and straightness signify an energy-maintained disorder in natural systems. Chaos has form, but is not predictable.
  • Entropy – In complex systems, disorder is an increasing result. Living things are functionally “anti-entropic”.
  • Metastability – For a complex system to remain stable, there must be small pockets of disorder.
  • Entelechy – Principal of genetic intelligence. i.e. The rose has thorns to protect itself.
  • Principle of Self-Regulation – The purpose of a functional and self-regulating design is to place elements or components in such a way that each serves the needs, and accepts the products of other elements.
  • Observation – Protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor.
  • We are surrounded by “insurmountable opportunities” – the system’s designer is the limiting factor in realizing them.
  • Wait One Year – (in reference to thoughtful observation).
  • Hold water and fertility as high (in elevation) on the landscape as possible – Utilise gravity to do the work for movement and dispersal.
  • Definition of System Yield – the sum total of surplus energy produced by, stored, conserved, reused, or converted by the design. Energy is in surplus once the system itself has readily available access to the resources it needs for growth, reproduction, and maintenance.
  • The Role of Life in Yield – Living things, including people, are the only effective intervening systems to capture resources on Earth and, as a result, to produce a yield. Thus, it is the sum and capacity of life forms which decide total system yield and surplus.
  • Pollutants/Pollution – an output of any system component that is not being used productively by any other component of the system.
  • Extra Work – the result of an input not readily and automatically provided by another component of the system.


  • Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual (1988) by Bill Mollison
  • Introducion to Permaculture (1991) by Bill Mollison

Learn More:

(Video) Mariefields Farmstay - World First Permaculture Farm created by Bill Mollison Father of Permaculture

Permaculture Principles by David Holmgren

Foundational Concepts

(Video) Permaculture People - Bill Mollison

Regenerative Agriculture


(Video) Permaculture with Bill Mollison - Epi 4 - Urban


What are the 12 principles of permaculture? ›

The 12 design principles of permaculture
  • Observe and Interact with Nature. ...
  • Catch and Store Energy. ...
  • Obtain a Yield. ...
  • Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback. ...
  • Use and Value Renewable Resources. ...
  • Produce No Waste. ...
  • Design From Patterns to Details. ...
  • Integrate Rather Than Segregate.

What are the three core principles of permaculture? ›

Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share are the three core values of permaculture.

How many permaculture principles are there? ›

The 12 permaculture principles can give us pointers towards living a slower and more sustainable life, in and beyond the garden. Each principle can be interpreted broadly, here are just a few examples of how you might apply them to your backyard or to your life.

What are the core principles of Perma? ›

The PERMA Model represents the five core elements of happiness and well-being. PERMA basically stands for Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments. American psychologist and educator Martin Seligman designed the PERMA Model.

What is the difference between permaculture and organic farming? ›

In permaculture gardening, energy is transferred from one source to another before leaving the system entirely. Whereas, with organic gardening, since fertilizers are used, the waste from one plant becomes food for another organism.

How many acres do you need for permaculture? ›

To establish a self-seeding, low-maintenance, backyard food forest capable of feeding you and your family, you would probably need around 1/30th of an acre per person, which is 1450 square feet or 38 by 38 feet. This figure is based on 2000lbs (900kgs) of fresh produce per person per year.

What is permaculture and why is it important? ›

“Permaculture” as a practice, simply means observing nature, researching tools and techniques used by indigenous people in your bioregion, and engaging in a diligent, daily practice of balancing the needs of yourself and your family with those of the other species all around you.

What is an example of permaculture? ›

Examples include buildings that support outside plant life, backyard and balcony gardens, and energy-saving green initiatives such as the installation of gray water reclamation systems. The permaculture movement has its critics.

What is permaculture Bill Mollison? ›

Permaculture is a philosophy for a sustainable, holistic lifestyle. Ecological researcher and writer, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined the term in 1978. They combined the words permanent and agriculture to create permaculture as a system of ecological farming.

Can permaculture be profitable? ›

The profit potential under permaculture can be estimated from the fact that another older technique, which also relies on local inputs, is giving farmers good dividends. Permaculture follows several principles that are a part of India's traditional methods of farming.

What is a permaculture lifestyle? ›

It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.” In other words, permaculture is a holistic, living-in-harmony-with-nature worldview, as well as technical approach for how to do so.

What are the 12 principles of design? ›

There are twelve basic principles of design: contrast, balance, emphasis, proportion, hierarchy, repetition, rhythm, pattern, white space, movement, variety, and unity.

Which element of perma is the most important? ›

Gratitude Letter

Creating a Gratitude Letter is one of the most effective exercises used in the PERMA model. Just like the gratitude journal mentioned earlier, fostering gratitude can significantly improve all aspects of PERMA (positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment).

Who started permaculture? ›

Bruce Charles "Bill" Mollison — known as the "father of permaculture" — died on Saturday in Hobart, aged 88. His system advocated agricultural ecosystems that were sustainable and self-sufficient. Mr Mollison rose to prominence after publishing Permaculture One with David Holmgren in 1974.

What are the characteristics of permaculture? ›

To sum it up in a few words:
  • Diverse.
  • Interwoven.
  • Multi layered.
  • Conservative (of resources!)
  • Self-regulating.
  • Self-repairing.
  • Low inputs.
  • High yields.

How does permaculture help the environment? ›

Regarding soil management, permaculture designs seek to 'slow, spread, and sink' water. This reduces stormwater runoff, recharges the aquifer, and seeks to eliminate soil erosion, thereby reducing the amount of carbon and nitrogen which leave the soil.

Why is permaculture better than monoculture? ›

Permaculture integrates patterns in ecosystems to replicate biodiversity into agriculture to minimalize human energy intervention. Monoculture efficiently produces a single crop or livestock type grown in a specific area, relying heavily on human involvement and energy-intensive machinery.

How do you use permaculture? ›

There are eight basic permaculture gardening techniques for getting started with a sustainable garden.
  1. Acquaint yourself with your surroundings. ...
  2. Choose plants based on your environment. ...
  3. Design your garden layout. ...
  4. Build your garden beds. ...
  5. Plant your permaculture garden. ...
  6. Add a layer of organic mulch to the topsoil.
Jun 7, 2021

How much land does a family of 4 need to be self sufficient? ›

An infographic by breaks it down to about 2 acres of land for a family of four. This includes approximately 12,000 sq. feet for wheat, 65 for eggs, 2640 for corn, 100 for dairy, 207 for meat, and 77,000 square feet for vegetables.

Can you be self sufficient on 1 acre? ›

The truth is you can be self-sustaining on a 1-acre property but it takes work, education, dedication, and time. So, if you have an oversized lot or small acreage and want to be as sustainable as possible, here are some ideas and suggestions on how to get started creating a self-sufficient homestead.

Can you be self sufficient on 2 acres? ›

How much land does one need to be self-sufficient? Agricultural experts say the minimum amount of land needed in North America is between 2 and 17 acres per person.

What is the difference between permaculture and agriculture? ›

Agriculture is the practice of cultivating food for human consumption. Permaculture is “permanent agriculture” and integrates ecosystem patterns to improve the ethics and sustainability of farming practices. Depending on the scale, certain agricultural practices have environmental implications.

What is the basis for permaculture? ›

Permaculture can be understood as the growth of agricultural ecosystems in a self-sufficient and sustainable way. This form of agriculture draws inspiration from nature to develop synergetic farming systems based on crop diversity, resilience, natural productivity, and sustainability.

What are the benefits of using permaculture in agriculture? ›

Permaculture offers solutions for soil fertility, water conservation, climate change mitigation, and animal habitat. Its design principles help to maximize biodiversity and preserve wildlife by creating more habitat for animal species.

Who uses permaculture? ›

Anyone can use the principles of permaculture for urban gardening, as well as suburban or large acreage,” says Forman. “That can look like different things for different people.” She explains that there are different zones in permaculture, from zero to five.

What countries use permaculture? ›

Asia and the Middle East
  • India. Living Ecology and Permaculture Patashala provide higher education to permaculture professionals through practical permaculture projects in small villages. ...
  • Thailand. ...
  • Indonesia. ...
  • Cambodia. ...
  • Nepal. ...
  • Saudi Arabia.

Is permaculture a sustainable? ›

Permaculture, at its core, is sustainable agriculture. It also includes 12 design principles that expand beyond farming and offer an ecological approach to modern living and communities—for example, energy conservation and zero waste living.

What did Bill Mollison do? ›

Bill Mollison was an Australian researcher, author, scientist, teacher and biologist. He founded The Permaculture Institute in Tasmania, and created the education system to train others under the umbrella of permaculture.

Is permaculture a science? ›

Permaculture is an applied science, it is concerned with using technologies, explained or unexplained but proven to work by human experience (from different cultures all around the world), to solve specific problems in a sustainable way.

What are the 12 principles of design? ›

There are twelve basic principles of design: contrast, balance, emphasis, proportion, hierarchy, repetition, rhythm, pattern, white space, movement, variety, and unity.

What are the elements of permaculture? ›

These are: ethics, abstract principles, science & design principles, strategies, and techniques. I list them in order of fundamental importance to the concept of permaculture. They are also listed in reverse order of how many there are.

What is an example of permaculture? ›

Examples include buildings that support outside plant life, backyard and balcony gardens, and energy-saving green initiatives such as the installation of gray water reclamation systems. The permaculture movement has its critics.

What are the ethics of permaculture? ›

The three ethics are: Earth Care, People Care and Fair Shares. They are not exclusive to permaculture and were derived from the commonalities of many worldviews and beliefs. They are therefore shared by many throughout the world.

What is the most important principle of design? ›

Hierarchy. One of the most important principles in design, hierarchy is a way to visually rank your design elements. Hierarchy is not based on a design styles, but rather the order of importance.

What is the 7 elements of design? ›

The elements of design are the fundamental aspects of any visual design which include shape, color, space, form, line, value, and texture.

What are the principles of design PDF? ›

The principles of design (balance, contrast, emphasis, pattern unity, movement and rhythm) are how the elements of art are used.


1. Bill Mollison teaching Permaculture - Farmers Trees
(Zoran Petrov)
2. Interview with Bill Mollison
3. Permaculture with Bill Mollison - Epi-2 - Dry Lands
(Zoran Petrov)
4. Bill Mollison - Permaculture Design
5. Bill Mollison on Permaculture
6. PermaCulture Soils - Interview with Bill Mollison & Geoff Lawton
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Eusebia Nader

Last Updated: 01/30/2023

Views: 5785

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Eusebia Nader

Birthday: 1994-11-11

Address: Apt. 721 977 Ebert Meadows, Jereville, GA 73618-6603

Phone: +2316203969400

Job: International Farming Consultant

Hobby: Reading, Photography, Shooting, Singing, Magic, Kayaking, Mushroom hunting

Introduction: My name is Eusebia Nader, I am a encouraging, brainy, lively, nice, famous, healthy, clever person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.