Permaculture Principle #5: Use and value renewable resources and services

This is another one of my faves. Renewable resources are all around us, although we don’t always recognize them. But once you put your mind to it, you can become quite creative in your hunt for resources to use in your permaculture system. Let’s start with the obvious one: compost.

Compost is everywhere. It happens in your gutters, it happens in the garden, and if you’re as bad a housekeeper as I am, it happens in your fridge. HA!

Leaves, grass and weed clippings, chicken feathers, bones, wood chips, etc. – all great stuff for the compost.

make compost
Compost, glorious compost!

So what other renewable resources should we be on the look out for? Another obvious one is energy. Energy from the sun and the wind can be captured and stored. And I know that there are more and more different ways of capturing energy coming out every day. I’m excited about the future of renewable energy.

Water is another big one. Sure, it’s easy to hook up to city water and turn on a tap. But are there other water sources available to you? And how can you value your water? Greywater systems, ponds and dams, and rainwater catchment systems are a big part of taking care of your water needs while also being resourceful in ways to extend its use.


Building is another area where you can think about using and valuing renewable resources and services. Environmentally friendly building materials made out of renewables such as hemp, recycled building materials, and clever design are all ways to make a small impact in a big way.

Another resource is people. Now, we don’t want to use people in a negative way, or they might not be renewable! You want to make sure they’ll come back again. So be sure to value them, and make them want to come back.

And of course, there are the animals. Chickens, goats, ducks, cows – all can provide invaluable services beyond just food, from eating pests to clearing land. If you take care of your animals, your animals will take care of you. Give them the food they love, a comfortable place to sleep and hide from predators, and the freedom to be animals, and they will become some of your best farm helpers.

When we were building the garden here, we went on many a wander in the wilds to find resources. We needed old logs, leaves, greens, and any other organic material we could find.

materials for building a garden
Renewable resources are everywhere, if we only open our eyes.

But the catch is, we wanted to make sure that everything was free of pesticides, herbicides, and any other ‘cides that might be floating around out there. So we were careful about where we gathered our materials. And we really did have a lot of fun doing it.

It has become like a game. We’ll be driving down the road and one of us will shout, “Rocket fuel!” if we see some branches that would be great for the rocket stove; or “Compost!” if we see some particularly juicy bits for adding to the piles.

I have a real love of scavenging. It’s so fun. When we go out on our walks with the dog – and our elk poo gathering forays – we often come upon a sad sight: piles of garbage that people have dumped out in the woods, or some other out-of-the-way place. It really is disgraceful. BUT! We have also found useful things in our travels.

Just today I got some rope, and Rich found a piece of metal he needed for a project. There are also a bunch of bricks there that could come in handy; and a pile of wood that will be perfect for the rocket stove. Seems to be a favorite dumping spot, and we visit often.

At the moment I am wearing a pair of black leggings that we found in a pile of ‘stuff’ someone dumped. In that same trip we got two pairs of gloves, three other pairs of leggings, a couple of t-shirts, and a king-sized quilt. Bonanza! I love free stuff. I’ll take some photos next time I’m out and about.

Now remember, when you’re setting up your systems, you might have to use some non-renewable resources. And that’s okay. What the world needs is millions of people doing this imperfectly, rather than just a few people doing it perfectly. It’s trying, over and over again, that will make this world a better place.

There are innumerable renewable resources (say that 5 times fast) and services in the world. Many of them are free, and all of them should be used responsibly. Hopefully some day we will learn to use only what we need, conserve where we can, reuse where possible, and not be greedy. In the meantime, we just do the best we can. : )

Health, Hope & Happiness


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