[This is the fifth installment in a 12-week series exploring Business Through the Lens of Permaculture. Using the principles of permaculture, a design framework that brings greater connection and understanding of the way elements within a system work together, we will undergo a study about how each of these principles can be applied to the systems of business. This series will focus specifically on small business, where an owner’s way of working impacts every facet of the business.]
About ten years ago, I watched a documentary called “Who Killed the Electric Car?” It covered the new wave of electric vehicles that tried to break into the market in the 1970s and 80s and the backlash that came from oil companies. The industry prevented electric vehicles from coming to market and even went so far as to buy up train tracks and disassemble them so more goods would need to be transported by tractor trailer (powered by petroleum, of course).
With the success of Tesla and Elon Musk opening up their patents for public use, it’s hard to believe that electric vehicles struggled for so long. It goes to show that it’s only possible to temporarily hold back progress and that great ideas will eventually make their way into the public sphere.
Given the extractive nature of capitalism and the take-make-waste throwaway and disposable culture we live in, the principle Use & Value Renewable Resources seems particularly important to be aware of and where possible to support businesses that follow this principle.
Great examples of businesses that are built on this principle are Airbnb, Lyft or any enterprises that are created around the sharing economy. Waste Management went from operating as a company focused on disposing of waste to managing waste in smarter ways. There is the concept of cradle-to-cradle, which looks at the full lifecycle of products and especially thinks about the end-of-life of products. Electronics companies are getting better and better at reusing components and being able to be reused or refurbished to be used again and again.
From an ecosystem perspective, trees are a great example of using and valuing renewable resources. Their wood, leaves, bark, berries, and fruits can be used for many purposes. And even when the tree dies, it decomposes and nourished the surrounding soil for the health of the ecosystem. Think about the book The Giving Tree. It’s a great demonstration of how much a tree gives – even its shade is part of what the tree gives and gives.
This is a call to not ignore what is renewable and what can be used for many different purposes within a system.
The purpose of this principle is to “make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.” Basically, leverage what’s renewable in as many ways as possible.
Let’s explore what this looks like for business.
The biggest piece to think about is your own energy. It’s renewable, yet it’s still finite within a certain period, so how is your energy best used and applied? How can you use your energy to bring in additional energy to support your work? How do you use your energy to create more energy? In thinking about your own energetic investments, how much do you ride the red-line of your energy or run at an energetic deficit?
In nature, water always finds its way back to the ocean. Let nature take its course. How does energy naturally flow? If you’re always trying to push water up the mountain, it’s not the best use of energy.
Your message is renewable. Especially when you have a world-changing message you share that is meant to shift the culture, it’s important to keep spreading the message and reinforcing the concepts over time. There’s no need to continue recreating the wheel. Keep saying what you have to say and allow more and more people to connect with your message.
Evergreen content is a great example of valuing a renewable resource. You can take the energy that has been invested once and with minor inputs, put that content into different frameworks. A workshop becomes a bunch of social media updates, a series of videos and an ebook. In this way, you leverage your energy into a number of places where more people can benefit from what you have to teach.
The resources you have already invested in your business are areas that you can use and value as renewable resources. Instead of buying a new course or working with another coach, do you have a resource already that will help you accomplish your goal? Instead of paying for a mastermind, how about you start your own with a specific focus?
How can you value your network in new ways, especially the people who bring you business? What can you offer them? How can you support and nurture the ones who nurture you? Maybe your community is a place that sustains you – how can you feed into it and continue to build capacity into a network that nurtures many beyond yourself?
Another way to think about this is building capacity into the systems that run your work. How can you use one tool for multiple purposes? Project management systems like Asana or Trello are great examples of this. You can use them to coordinate your team, plan your social media, track client or product delivery, track your sales funnel, coordinate product launches, manage the business finances and so much more. One tool, used for many purposes. This is definitely a renewable resource. How can you stack functions of the tools you have at your disposal?
A great example of your personal energy is to track your own cycles of energetic peaks and dips and align your work to those flows. Do you know you produce content or get massive projects done when you have a day to focus solely on that one thing and just get it done rather than trying to do it over several days in a row? This is leveraging your renewable energy in a smart way. Maybe you know you work best when you work from 5:30am – 12pm and spend the rest of the day tending to other areas of your life. Paying attention to these things is smart energy management.
What are the renewable resources in your business? What are other ways you can use and value renewable resources?
It is my intention that understanding the application of permaculture principles to business will create better-designed businesses that work harmoniously within the business itself, but also in how the business engages with the world at large.
We’re on the edge of creating this way of thinking about business, so I value your input as part of the renewable resource that is feeding our larger system of knowing, learning and collective wisdom. I look forward to hearing your reflections and the parallels you draw with your work or what you notice in business.