A Permaculture Guide to Romance

As many of you know, Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability. It’s also supposed to apply to all human endeavors. At Community Forests International we use permaculture design for a lot of what we do, from how we run our office to how we live and work on the land. So why not bring the 12 principles of permaculture to an aspect of life that many hard-working sustainability junkies neglect?

Although I’m no expert in the field and am often grouped into the camp of people who are too busy to live a well-balanced life I figure I might as well take a stab at relating the 12 principles of permaculture to love.

So here it is.

A Permaculture Guide to Dating

1. Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.

Slow down, no need to jump in. Take a bit of time to understand yourself and the others around you. Spend sometime with yourself and watch how you interact with others. When you’re ready for the big first date you’ll know what you’re bringing to the table.

2. Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.

Relationships take energy, so know where you get yours from. What recharges you and what doesn’t? Make a list and avoid all things that wear you out. Putting your heart on the line is going to take everything you’ve got so make sure you are starting with a full tank of fuel. More importantly make sure you know how to replenish it.

3. Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.

This is pretty straightforward. If it’s not fun there is no point. Many people are fairly good at making sure that the people they are dating are benefiting their health, mind and spirit, but you’d be surprised at the number of people that end up in soul sucking relationships. That’s right, even in 2015. By observing yourself and knowing what energizes you you’ll be able to sculpt the type of relationship that gives back, ultimately making you the person you want to be.

4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.

This is also known as “taking it easy”. On a first date monitor body language and make sure your behavior is appropriate — don’t be forceful and remember your ABCs (Always Be Cool). Pay attention to the response your behavior elicits and work to replicate positive experiences. Over time in a relationship feedback will become more apparent and you’ll know when it’s time to self-regulate (chill out).

5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.

Make sure that special someone isn’t giving to you things (emotionally, physically and spiritually) that they can’t easily replenish. Beyond knowing what energizes you, spend a little bit of time causally observing what energizes the person you’re with and make sure you’re bringing these energizing experiences to the table.

6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.

This can be interpreted as “staying positive”. Look for ways to make everything meaningful.

7. Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.

The devil is truly in the details.

Don’t focus on immediacy or quick satisfaction when it comes to relationships. Let you hair down and dream a little. Picture the world you want to create and work to live it with that special someone. Once you see and identify patterns the details will take care of the rest. Many contentious moments in relationships are spent haggling through the details. By focusing on the patterns you’ll save yourself some heartache.

8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.

Don’t separate your life in your relationship between the time you’re spending together to the time you’re spending apart or the time you spend together or with friends. Look at all elements of your day as a whole and work to weave them together. Value the different phases and functions in your relationship and know their intrinsic values.

9. Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.

Don’t blow things out of proportion. As challenges come up don’t look to change yourself, your partner, your living situation and your profession all in one sweeping motion.

10. Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

This one has nothing to do with cultivating open relationships and more about keeping things fresh. Mix it up. Sleep on the left side of the bed one night and the right side of the bed the other. Be both spontaneous and routine.

11. Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

These times are often turbulent — the transition times. Moving in together, getting a new job, going away for a PDC course or even starting a relationship in the first place. These transitions while dating can seem volatile but in actuality make your relationship what it is.

12. Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

Change, straight-up.

This is what keeps a relationship alive. If you want to start your relationship and have things stay the same forever and ever then you probably need to go back to the first permaculture design principle and start over.

Relationships change over time. People change over time. Dreams, goals, visions and expectations change. Embrace it.

Do you love permaculture? If so please consider checking out our work at Community Forests International where we empower rural communities around the world to adapt to climate change — a lot of what we do is informed by permaculture design!

Like this post? Feel free to follow me on twitter @pembatrees. It would be great if you could “Recommend” this post!


Jeff Schnurr is the founder of Community Forests International, an environmental start-up that leverages entrepreneurship to combat climate change. He was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Special Citation Social Entrepreneurship.

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