Building Sustainable Community Right Here Right Now

I hear from a lot of people (either directly, or via posts in online forums) that they don’t feel like they can “do” sustainable living in their current location.

Many people have the idea that they ultimately need to find a way to move out to the country and buy land in order to “do” a sustainable lifestyle. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sustainable living (ideally regenerative living, which is what permaculture is) starts right where you are right now. Anyway, not all of us are at all interested in rural living.

To offer encouragement to a person who expressed that “gotta move out to the country” feeling in one of my online permaculture groups, I posted the following comment:

I live in a city too, in a neighborhood that has not “embraced” permaculture per se … but I love where I live, and if you love where you live, that makes it an ideal place to be a hub of permaculture. Even if it’s just you as an individual at first (as it has been for me til relatively recently).

Not everyone has to “get” permaculture, or even know the word, for your permaculture mind-set to start to “beneficially inoculate” a neighborhood and community. It can be something as simple as setting up a Little Free Library in front of your house. Or posting on NextDoor when you have extra seeds or plants to share. Or if you’re ordering a load of mulch, offer to coordinate a group order for your neighborhood. Start a music jam or poetry jam in someone’s yard or driveway. Have an art show in a vacant lot. Organize a Zoom chat for local people interested in “Zero Waste” or other sustainability stuff. Use those as vehicles to share permaculture ideas, ethics, design principles.

The “culture” part of permaculture is huge, and your potential impact in your urban area has the potential to greatly outweigh the impact of moving out to a rural area and getting a big piece of land where there are no people around.

Yes, it can feel scattered and unfocused sometimes. Especially when I hear from fellow permies who live in cities where the permaculture movement is more organized, has made deeper inroads. But if you love your community, it’s a worthy effort. Try to think of yourself as a valuable resource, a “beneficial spore” of regenerative culture. Isn’t your community lucky to have a permaculture person of its own.

(And, More likeminded people will appear, as you keep moving forward with your efforts. You never know when a seed you’ve planted in the past is going to burst forth.)

For ongoing practical & moral support, continue to draw on your online permie groups like this one.

She just now thanked me, said she had found my comment inspirational. Made my day! It’s always a delight to help a fellow “city mouse” who is into sustainable living and wants to take it further.

Further Exploration:

Building a Community By Design in 5 Simple Steps (Jonathon Engels; in “When looking to build a permaculture community, some aspects will take root quickly and flourish; other parts require extra watering, a special microclimate, or even replanting. Nevertheless, it’s important to observe the group, interact socially, design activities, produce yields, and adjust to the feedback. Communal situations, like guilds, are replete with connections and synergy that can be harnessed for the common good. When the right notes are hit, the outcome is beautiful music. But, when we all play to our own beat with no consideration for the orchestra, the different songs create a calamitous cacophony. Too much isolation, too much aimless energy, or too much disconnect and communities can take a turn for the worse. Akin to a garden severely out of whack, weaker parts of the village dynamic become victims of destructive pests. We have to plan accordingly, recognising things won’t always be perfect.”