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Episode 004: What is Your Single Greatest Challenge When it Comes to Sustainability?

Oct 01, 2019
Seeds of Tao podcast permaculture challenge living sustainably


Hey there! We have been working super hard for the past few months in preparation for this episode because it’s all about conducting systematic market research to uncover what permies around the world are truly struggling with. And the results are in!!! But before we start deep diving, you should know that we have a total background in marketing and LOVE our market research! We follow the ASK method, for all your marketer permies out there, and basically that means that we ask a set of systematic questions to uncover what your struggle really is, and how broad that struggle is faced by other permies out there. This will help us to know better how to help you!

The Survey

Alright, now I’m not going to go into super crazy details about all the numbers and percentages because… well… who wants to read that? We can discuss the results in civilized language. First off, as of right now, our survey encompassed about 130 people, and surprising to us - it was from people all over the world implementing permaculture. So if you feel like you’re trying to push permaculture forward all on your lonesome, don’t. Even though you can’t see it happening, permaculture is becoming a global effort. 

The Participants

Remember how I said we surveyed about 130 people? Well over a third of those people were between the ages of 41 and 50, and just less than a third was between 51 and 60. But hardly anyone was under 30! What happened millennials? Where you at? Perhaps you are closet permies - not promoting that you’re fighting the good fight. I hope that we will start to see more millennials and the younger generations diving into permaculture, but that’s for another time to discuss…

The Life Situations

Ok so Josh and I are in our early 30’s and we have four young children. When we decided to take the plunge on Seeds of Tao we totally imagined that most permies around the world were going to be single and without children. While we did find that oftentimes this was the case, slightly MORE people were married with children than single! Which is awesome. Go families! And everyone else too, of course, that’s just the one I relate more easily to :)

The Interests

Next, we started to look at what permies thought they needed to learn about most, which was asked for two reasons. First off, we would be able to develop content or bring in experts to add content relating to the specific area of interest. Second, we were able to take a glimpse into how permies are thinking. We had four categories for them to choose from. They could say they were more interested in learning about developing sustainable communities, creating sustainable families, learning about sustainable necessities (food, fuel, shelter, and clothing), establishing a sustainable mindset, or they could choose Other. Over a third of the group believed that they needed to learn more about establishing sustainable communities. Which is awesome. Permaculture should not be a solitary movement. Change needs to ripple to create impact. Twenty-two percent chose to learn to create the necessities- which we thought would be a lot higher. Permaculture is all about ultimate sustainability, without being reliant on exterior systems for the necessities- but fewer people chose this option than a sustainable community which is SO GOOD. If this is the higher category than the others, permies would be only focused on themselves. But we as a movement need to recognize the fact that while real change needs to come from the individual, there is a point when we must rely on others to truly fill all of our needs and keep progressing. Not that the necessities aren’t important, because they SO are. But we also need to keep the long term goal in mind- global positive change through sustainable communities.

The third place in this categorizing question was in developing a sustainable mindset. This was freaking music to our ears. It is not very common when people are able to recognize they need a mindset shift. But the funny thing is, that as we read the responses to our open-ended question, which we will discuss next, we found that MANY of those responses were actually linked to mindset issues. For example, we heard over and over that the subject’s real struggle was not having enough time. But what is time? A mental construct. Change your mindset, change your mental construction of time, change the way you interact with time, use tools to manage and prioritize your time, you no longer have an issue with not having enough time. Helping to develop positive mindsets is something Josh and I are SUPER passionate about and so we were SOOOOO excited when people were recognizing (or showing through their language)  that their struggle was with mindset. We are developing courses right now to help people overcome struggles with mindset and will be releasing them soon, so stay tuned. More awesome coming soon :)

The Single Most Important Question

Ok, so that open-ended question I mentioned earlier? It’s called the SMIQ (Single Most Important Question). This is where we asked people what their biggest challenge was when it came to sustainability. Some people answered a sentence, some a paragraph, and… well, some people just skipped it- luckily for us many permies we were talking to answered in a paragraph form. Want to know some of the answers? Here are a few…


The biggest challenge is to communicate about sustainability with the people who are indifferent to sustainability and who do not understand that the problems are deeper than they can imagine.”


“Long-term planning and commitment to implementing plans. I set many goals for myself and it is often-times hard to prioritize. At the same time, I realize that some of them, like establishing a food forest, require long-term planning and commitment. This is a challenge since my other commitments require me to be away (in the field or abroad) quite often.”


“Integrating the current needs and design challenges of me, my family and new projects into personal and professional commitments/processes and projects, that are already underway. Also connected here is that producing no waste (social included) is fundamentally and extraordinarily challenging. “


“My biggest challenge towards sustainability in Permaculture is the lack of proper focus in designs towards income generation for my livelihoods as a practitioner and for my organization to be able to stand on its own without donor funding in its Permaculture work and activities. Permaculture has focused so much on the Earth care, the conservation of the environment, more gardening than solving systematic problems in the communities.  Little attention on People Care. Permaculture and people practicing it should start engaging in Permaculture Enterprises in their organizations. Donor funding for Permaculture projects is not forthcoming with my 17 years of experience practicing Permaculture in Kenya. Hence Permaculture practitioners should focus more on Business and embrace equipment for processing and value addition embracing them in balance  with Nature of agricultural produce.”

 It All Starts with Mindset

The responses were diverse, but commonalities definitely showed up. At the end of the day, it’s the need for a proper mindset to have the power to create a positive impact in the world through permaculture. That’s exactly why we’re here. We are beyond excited to go on this journey with you and grow the movement together. 

And guess what? This survey is still going on! We would LOVE for you to take a few minutes and help us to better understand the needs and challenges of permies around the world- the real root of change always starts with understanding. Our goal is for 500 participants to take the survey so we can get a broad spectrum of information. When we reach our goal, we will include the new information in a podcast episode to share our results. With that - definitely take that survey, and if you aren’t part of our Community definitely come get in on it, there are some AMAZING people in our community and we would love to have you.

Keep growing :)


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