1- Observe and interact

6 ways Permaculture can help to create truly sustainable business

Picture a sustainable business and we often picture renewable energy, recycling, reusing materials, and compostable packaging.

Look up ‘sustainable’, however, in the dictionary and the meaning is ‘to be able to continue over time’.

For a lot of companies, whether motivated by ethics or profits, there is a strong desire to become more ‘sustainable’. However, the barrier to preventing a lot of organisations making this change, comes not from a lack of motivation, but that becoming sustainable, isn’t sustainable for them.

How can we overcome the barriers of change to make switching to being sustainable a more realistic goal for every business?

We copy the most sustainable system we have.


In the areas that we have started to mimic nature we have found unrivalled success. Biomimicry and Permaculture are both based on designing solutions to human problems using natures patterns and strategies. Between them they have lead to leaps in technological advancement and the way we grow food and design landscapes.

Why stop there?

How can we use these same ideas of learning from the natural world to guide our decision making around true sustainability?

Below are 6 ways the Permaculture principles can be a guide to becoming sustainable in a manageable way:

1. Observe and interact

Take time to understand the full picture.

If you want to plant a fruit tree but just place it in the first place you see, chances are it won’t grow well.

Whereas, take time to understand your land, observe the sun, shade, rain etc and you will have a much better idea of where that tree will grow well.

It can be very tempting to jump into projects straight away to see immediate progress. But, if we take the same approach, create time for away days, planning or brainstorming meetings we can get a clear understanding of our circumstances and what might be the best changes to make.

2.Start Small and Slow

Most things in nature change slowly. The forest is forever adapting to changing climates and conditions.

Changing our business should be no different.

If we want to change the landscape of a forest, clear cutting and removing all the trees is not an effective approach.

In business it is no different, if we attempt to change offices, packaging, suppliers, and switch to renewable energy all at once, it will cause a great deal of stress on staff and resources.

A much more sustainable approach would be to focus on one thing to change at a time and build from there.

In the day to day the business looks the same. But over time, like the forest, everything can change.

What is the easiest thing your business could change to make it more sustainable?

3.Integrate Rather than Segregate

Every element in an ecosystem works towards the survival of the whole.

Each plant in an ecosystem fills multiple roles. Whether it be providing habitat/food/shade/nutrients for another, everything contributes to a much bigger picture.

It is all integrated.

This could involve changing the way you have meetings to be more inclusive of different team members.

The way your office is laid out.

Encouraging team building activities to bring staff together

Looking at bringing in an income from your waste or byproducts.

Promoting a cycling to work scheme to reduce emissions and at the same time boost the health of your staff.

Looking at ways to cross sell. If certain customers only buy one of your products, how can you share the rest of your business with them to have them use you for more of their needs?

Nature integrates. An integrated business is a more sustainable one.

4.Obtain a Yield

There is a stigma about sustainability that it shouldn’t be for profit or gain. There is some negativity around Patagonia, for example, that they make a lot of money from their ethical approach. Sustainability sells.

The reality, however, is that changing to become sustainable isn’t the easy option.

If you do make changes, promote it, share the story. Look for ways you can gain from the changes you are making.

If you can increase your revenues from changing to a more environmental approach it will make your business more sustainable long term. It will also encourage staff, and shareholders to get behind the changes, making the whole project much more achievable.

Replicate nature and try to make you’re efforts worthwhile.


Nature is diverse.

Often our businesses are not.

Diversity comes in many forms.

The people who make up our team. The products we sell. The flexibility of working hours. The markets we operate in.

Encouraging diversity in these areas has multiple benefits.

It brings in a range of ideas and view points. Allows us to target a wide range of customers. Benefits the wellbeing of the team and allows us to select from a wider range of talent. Protects us from changes in the market and demand for our product/services.

Encourage diversity.

6. produce no Waste

This one is quite obvious.

Nothing in nature creates waste except for humans.

Our businesses are often the worst offenders.

Turning your business into a zero waste one is a clear big win for sustainability and replicating nature. But, it isn’t easy and can be a big challenge to take on even for the most ethically minded business.

However, if we can use nature as a guide we can make this a much more sustainable goal:

  1. Observe. Take time to understand how much waste you produce and where it goes.

  2. Start Small. Create SMART and small realistic goals to make one small improvement to you waste.

  3. Integrate. Get the whole team on board. Don’t just leave it to one person to take responsibility.

  4. Obtain a Yield. Celebrate your success. Create rewards for the team if you hit your target. Share what you are doing to your audience.

  5. Diversify. Once you build momentum, tackle another project. Keep the momentum going!

Lots of companies already use these approaches to great success, and perhaps there is a reason why they work so efficiently.

Nature knows best.

How to take a digital detox


How to take a digital detox

I've never paid much attention to detoxes. The idea of cutting out toxins or things that are supposedly unhealthy for a short period of time only to take them back up again doesn't make sense to me. I'd rather just attempt to drink and eat healthy all the time and avoid the need to detox in the first place. Recently, however, I've become increasingly aware, that at 32, it is perhaps time for my first detox. The toxin that I need a break from, the digital world.

Having been born in the early 80's, I consider myself very fortunate to have spent over 50% of my life in a non digital world. I have fond memories of when the closest I had to receiving a text was to get hit in the head by a note thrown by a friend when the teacher wasn't looking, pictures needed to be developed and were shared by hand, and having lots of followers probably wouldn't have been a good thing. I remember arranging to meet people and then having to be actually be there on time, to getting on a bus or train and not having something in my pocket to entertain me, so instead, simply looking out of the window, and living a life with far less distractions and far more time spent outside.

I feel a bit sorry for kids nowadays. They have been raised in a digital world their whole lives. While there are clearly advantages to this, such as the ability to have instant access to information and inspiration, and to prove your friends wrong in the pub immediately, there are also disadvantages that come from it. We are surrounded 24 hours a day 365 days a year by distractions. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Texts, News, TV, Spotify, Netflix, TV on demand, the list is endless and it is all instantly available, all we have to do is reach into our pockets and your distraction of choice is there for the taking. I miss those hours of frustration spent racking your brain for the answer to pointless questions. Now the answer is given almost before the question has finished being asked, usually by a smug looking me, face lit up by my LED encyclopedia. If you look around, more and more of us are choosing the distractions over real life. So often when we are presented with a free minute or two we choose to be distracted, in a restaurant when our friend goes to the toilet, on the toilet, waiting for a bus, on the bus, whatever the situation, if we are given time, there is that instinctive reaction to go for our pockets, to be entertained.

I need a cleanse from this.

I realised that whenever I was presented with this free time I was often repeating a cycle with my phone or laptop.

Facebook, hmmm seen that funny cat video twice already...

Instagram... still no likes....

Let's see if the news headlines have changed....nope...

Better check the weather again...

I know how ridiculous this is. It's a massive waste of my time yet I still do it, we all do. If you were a channel flicker as a child then the internet and social media is a dream come true for twisting until you find entertainment. It scares me to think how much time I have wasted on this.

With any bad habit, the first step to resolving it is to realise there is a problem in the first place. I know there is a level of hypocrisy in me saying all this seeing as you are reading my blog online and there's a chance you found out I'd posted a new one via a social media link I sent out. It's probably not great for my ratings or whatever you call it on blogs? to encourage you to spend less time online but I think you should at least ask yourself if you do spend too much time online? Some people have a great balance for this already. If you are one of those people you can probably stop reading and head on back to the real world. I however, need a detox from this. I am not suggesting a blanket ban. But I have devised some steps I have taken and will be taking, that I thought I would share, to help take a step back from it all and spend a little more time smelling the roses.

  1. Disconnect your TV. I haven't had a connected TV for the last three years and wish I had done it sooner. I still have a TV and watch the occasional movie or TV show through my laptop on it, but gone is the habit of coming home and having the TV on in the background or channel flicking in search of some entertainment. If this seems a bit drastic try going a week without turning the TV on at all, listen to some music, read a book, talk to your partner/friends more, play a game or just enjoy some silence.
  2. Turn off all notifications from your phone. The phone is like a little devil on our shoulder. "Check me! Check me!" At times we forget it's there but then... BEEEEEP!  Our attention is taken from the real world and is instead drawn to the phone. The more notifications I turn off, the less time spent on my phone. That instagram/facebook post was still there when I looked later on. I really wasn't missing anything.
  3. Remove as many apps as possible from your phone. In my deepest digital obsession I had pages and pages of apps on my phone. Social media, news feeds, weather apps, message services, games, all sorts of random crap. Each app needed attention. Any free moment was elongated as I checked each app to make sure I wasn't missing anything...I wasn't...but I needed to double check. I now only have a few that I have decided actually add value to my life, I have kept instagram (I'll come to that later) but all other social media have gone from my phone, anything I haven't used in the last month gets deleted. Less apps = less time on the phone.
  4. Unfollow everyone on social media. Ok maybe not everyone, but get ruthless. That friend on facebook you haven't spoken to in person or on even on facebook for the last 10 years... do you really need to see that they liked a meme about rabbits? Cut em. The less new information you have on your social media feeds the less time you will spend scrolling on them. This is a good thing. If you feel a bit harsh fully "defriending" someone on facebook there is a magic little option to stop seeing their posts, use it. If you use twitter and instagram try limiting the amount of people you follow. I dont really use twitter, but I have set a limit to only follow a max of 100 people on instagram. Less new pics = less time spent.
  5. Unsubscribe to all newsletters. It's amazing the random emails lists we end up subscribed to. I spent so long simply deleting them thinking that one day I would get round to reading one of the newsletters, I liked the company but didn't have time to read their email this time....this would go on for months, or even years. Every month they would take up a fraction of my time. I have now subscribed from all but about 3 newsletters that I actually enjoy reading each month. If you haven't opened a newsletter in the last 3 emails, unsubscribe (that goes for mine too!).
  6. Take real photos. I used to really enjoy taking proper pictures with an actual camera. But my phone and instagram made me lazy and the filters made me think I was a better photographer. I have started taking my camera around with me again and taking time to take a proper picture. It is still digitial but it shows how far we have come that even a digital camera seems a slower, more mindful way of doing things.
  7. Listen to real music. When I was a kid the excitement of going to a record store to pick up a recently released album was immense. You would read the sleeve back to back, and there was a definite ritual and mindfulness to putting the CD on for the very first time and sitting down/dancing around while you actually listened to the music. I miss this.  I've gotten used to the online music world of instant access to everything and the excitement and intention has gone. I am on the look out for a turntable to bring this back. While this will take up more of my time I think it is a trade I am happy to make.
  8. At least a day a week offline. When was the last time you didn't check something online? Probably when camping, or on an adventure of some kind. Now that wifi and 3G is everywhere it is hard to properly disconnect from the online world. I am trying to introduce at least a day a week where I will have no contact with the internet. I definitely use the internet less on the weekends but still have some connection to it. I am aiming to have a full break once a week. If that seems difficult because of your job, you could try an evening a week, after 5pm for example, instead.

If you want to reduce your reliance on the digital world you don't need to do all of these things at once. If you do one thing today, you will be less reliant than you were the day before and that is progress. I'll still be posting blogs and the odd instagram post but will be doing it with a lot more intention. If I have something to say I will say it, if not I will try not to waste all of our time.

If you have any other suggestions for how to disconnect please let me now in the comments or better yet tell me in the real world.



If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem


It seems we are all in agreement, Planet Earth could do with some improvements. A quick scan on anyone's social media feed will show that everyone has some opinion on it, global warming, deforestation, genetically modified food, famine, obesity, war, poverty, or even the shooting of a lion called Cecil. At least one of those ingredients is enough to bring out a passionate post from the calmest of souls. Yet what are we doing with this passion and these opinions, sharing a post on Facebook, signing an online petition, or maybe videoing ourselves with a bucket of ice? While all of these things are done with the best of intentions and can create change, they all have one common problem, they rely on someone else doing the work for us. Don't get me wrong, social media has become a powerful tool for bringing attention to atrocities happening across the world, petitions can create a change in policies and seemingly people dropping a bucket of ice on their head can raise a lot of money for charity. But what happens after we complete that quick, easy, convenient, online action? Most of us go back to living our lives the way we always had. We've done our bit, it's someone else's responsibility to sort that out now. I've donated, signed, shared, I'm contributing to change...That's all well and good except I'm not seeing change. All of those problems listed at the start of this post are still problems. Some are becoming worse. Our post sharing, petition signing attack on the things we disagree with doesn't seem to be working fast enough.

Now imagine a world where people saw a post on Facebook that showed how using plastic bottles is damaging the planet and instead of just liking it, maybe even sharing it, they actually decided then and there to never use a plastic water bottle again. I'm not talking about avoiding them until you forget to bring a refillable bottle, I'm talking NEVER AGAIN. And imagine that every post shared on social media that people liked or shared resulted in the same action, people changing their ways to match their beliefs. We can't rely on someone else to sort out our problems any longer as it's just not working. The attitude that "what's the point in me changing if no-one else will" isn't serving anyone. Even if you are the single sole person standing up for what you believe in isn't it still worth doing?

We need to wake up to the fact, if we aren't part of the solution we are part of the problem. If, for example, we disagree with the deforestation of the rainforest in Borneo and Sumatra that is putting Orangutans and many other animals, including us humans soon enough, on the endangered species list but still consume products that include palm oil sourced from that deforestation then we need to realise we are part of the problem. Just because we aren't the one cutting down the tree doesn't make us guilt free. The person responsible for cutting down the tree probably doesn't think he or she is to blame for the problem either, they are being paid by someone making the decision above them, they are just a logger. The person in the marketing department of the company selling the product probably doesn't think they are to blame either, they just promote the products the company makes. Even the owner of the company probably looks at the sales of the product and thinks that people still clearly want a product made in this way so they should still provide it. We are all partly responsible. If the product was made and we disagreed with it and never purchased it imagine how long that product would remain on sale for. 

It really isn't a big shift to change our habits. We don't need to all run off into the wilderness and set up self sufficient communes to make a change. We won't completely change our habits straight away but if we all start to make a conscious decision to not just go into auto pilot and simply ask ourselves "is this action I am about to take in line with the change I want to see?" I believe we could make a big change.

With this in mind I am taking on a series of month long challenges to try to shift my life to be more inline with the changes I want to see in the world. They aren't massive changes, but they are changes. Slowly but surely I aim to make small steps towards this goal and make these changes part of my everyday routine.

One thing I've learnt on this short journey I've been on is that committing to something in your head is one thing, if only you know about it it's easy to go back on it. However, voicing your intention to friends, family and even strangers brings with it peer pressure to see it through...

Instead of just liking and sharing things on social media Im trying to make a commitment to change my habits to fit in with my beliefs.

So here's my commitment: This month I am going to try to make all of my plastic waste for the month fit into a small glass jar. Both "recyclable" and single use plastic. Why a jar? Funnily enough a friend shared a post on Facebook about this lady www.trashisfortossers.com who has fit all of her waste from 2 years into a small jar. I liked the post but then realised I needed to do more than just like the post. While I am not sure I currently have the ability to do exactly what she is doing I felt a good first step would be to try it for a month. I also like the fact that it is a glass jar so that each time I look at it I will be able to see the waste I have created. One big problem I see with our current waste system is we put our trash in a place that is usually hidden out of the way, under the sink, in the corner of the room, etc, then it gets dropped off at the dump that is also hidden away. Everything is kept out of sight, out of mind and leads us to a false sense of security to how much we are actually wasting. This will be a constant reminder.

For sometime I have disagreed and been angered by the damage our plastic obsession causes to our environment and our health yet I often still turn a blind eye and buy products wrapped in it? I can hardly complain about it if I am still reliant on it. It's quite a daunting challenge for me as recycled plastic packaging is unfortunately part of so many products that I use on a regular basis. It will take quite a bit of forward planning with shopping etc too which isn't my strong point.

If you agree with what I've said why not make a stand and commit to being part of the solution in one small way yourself. It doesn't need to be a month long thing, that format just appeals and works for me. It could be a small change or a big one, perhaps one day a week without using your car or a year of eating locally sourced food. Whatever it is post it in the comments below and/or on social media and announce it to the world. Sure, people may think it different to your regular updates and your post may not get as many likes as that nice picture of a sunset you just posted but at least you will be able to say you are being part of the solution and not the problem and you may even inspire someone you know to do the same.

Reduce your working hours to follow your dreams


I have never been overly motivated by money. It's not that I don't use it and value it, its that I have always valued my time far more. However up until recently that hasn't stopped me mostly working 5 days a week for the last few years. I never really questioned it. It's what we are supposed to do. We work 35-40 hours a week (lots more for some) because that is what society says we should do. When did that get decided? And why 5 days a week, why not 4 or 6? Even though our wage usually increases over time or as we move from job to job most of us keep the hours the same. Why do we do this? We survived on our wage when it was x amount a year ago and now that we have potentially been given a pay rise or got a new job why not reduce our working hours instead of take the monetary incentive?  We often complain that we are too busy to follow our dreams/get fitter/spend more time with the family but in reality the solution is right in front of us if we just dared to take it. It doesn't have to be a drastic change, why not reduce our week just by a half or full day to give us time to pursue what really matters to us? When we look back at our lives what will be most important the fact that we made more money so we could afford an extra extension on a house that is already too big or that we achieved our wildest dreams?

Here are some answers to the excuses you are probably already thinking of:

  • My boss will say no - Have you even asked?
  • It will  make me look bad and will prevent me from getting promoted in the future - Possibly, but what is more important achieving your dreams, YOUR ACTUAL DREAMS!!!! or getting promoted so you can make more money and be even busier doing a job you don't care about? Besides most people will admire that you aren't afraid to do something different to what is expected and you will learn a lot of extra skills that can be used in your current job.
  • I can't afford it - Take a look at how you spent your money over the last month. Apart from food and rent for you and your family what else is essential? Where can you make savings? If you are still unsure why not put aside the money you would lose reducing your hours for a couple of months and see how you get on. 
  • I enjoy my work and don't want to reduce my hours - Would you still do it if you won the lottery? If you can hand on heart say you would then I am truly pleased for you. Make sure you take the time to appreciate the position you are in because I believe very few people can honestly say their circumstances wouldn't change. Why settle for anything less than your dreams?
  • What about my pension and making enough money so I can retire - Nothing is permanent. Why not try it for 6 months or a year and if it doesn't work out go back to 5 days a week. You may put off your retirement by a few months at worst but the way things are going we will all be working until we're 100 anyway. What sounds better to you; do work you love and don't actually want to retire from or count down the days until you can retire and then do something you love? 

The reason I know the answers to these excuses is because I have been using them for the last few years. I have always done work I have enjoyed and so I used the excuse that because I was doing work that was helping people or raising money for charity that it was enough, I was doing my bit to make the world a better place. But if I'm honest with myself it wasn't enough. It wasn't my true passion and I was't doing enough to be the change I want to see in the world.  I no longer use those excuses. I recently took the opportunity to brake free from what society expected of me. I have dropped my hours at my current work to 4 days a week so that I can spend time volunteering at Farmers on 57th an organic urban farm in Vancouver. Every week I get my hands dirty learning about the organic food industry, grow food for the local community via a CSA program and spend time outside with nature. It's not a big change but it's a step in the right direction. Perhaps because I have made that change this time next year I will have reduced the hours further or even all together, perhaps not. I won't know until I try it.

I realise there are some people who genuinely could not afford to reduce their hours as they are still chasing security and fighting to afford to put food on the table. That is not right. If more of us weren't still chasing money long after we reached that level of security there might be more hours and money to share with those in need too.

Changing my ways to be the change I want to see


So turns out if I change nothing, nothing changes. Now I know that sounds an obvious statement. But this is pretty much the epiphany which has led me to start this blog. It is so stupidly evident that not only do I feel a bit silly saying it out loud it is almost worth not mentioning as surely you are all a lot smarter than me and realised this ages ago. However, I am sharing it as for me it's an important part of this journey. If I change nothing, nothing changes. For quite sometime I have felt an almost daily annoyance with some form of modern society. Everyone has the things that get under their skin and pisses them off. Yours might be middle lane drivers mine just happens to be a long list of things that are mostly unsustainable, unethical or unhealthy. When something ticks all the boxes, such as a non organic, pre-peeled, banana wrapped in plastic, I lose my shit.

Now the realisation I had is that while having a mini tantrum in a supermarket because I've just seen the latest ridiculous idea for packaging can be fun it unfortunately achieves very little. If I want to see this change, I have to change my ways. Sure, I've made some sacrifices and have been inconveniently peeling my own bananas for a while now, but I do still buy food that is part of that system I so detest. As much as I complain about that system, I support it with my hard earned money. I may buy mostly organic, local and seasonal (in that order of priority at the minute) but until recently I have been buying my food from the same supermarkets that sell stuff I disagree with and whose organic produce still mostly comes in plastic anyway. In all fairness to the supermarket if people keep buying the food wrapped in plastic and only having moderately quiet rants about it in the aisle then why would they change their ways? As far as they are concerned I gave them cash so I must support and need what they are offering. What mug would give money to something he disagreed with?

If I want to see change, I must change my ways. If I don't support and like how supermarkets package their food, pressurise farmers to lower their costs, stock unseasonal food, waste food, etc, etc. then I need to change my routine and habits so that I am not supporting them with my money. If I need to buy food I will buy as much as possible at a local, organic, independent store rather than the more convenient and closer supermarket. It might not stock as much stuff and it might be further away from my house but it will be inline with my views and whats more important convenience or conservation?

This "beef" isn't just for my local, unsuspecting supermarket, it needs to be for everything I spend my money on. It isn't going to be an easy process but it still needs to happen. I am now reassessing every aspect of my life to see where else I have been bending over and supporting things I disagree with. It's quite a lengthy ordeal so if someone can make an app for it I'd be very grateful.

And to the naysayers who say "Whats the point? What difference will one person make?" I'm not looking to change the whole world, just my world. If I change nothing, nothing changes.