How to Make a Living as a Permaculturist

By Steven Saint Thomas

They’re calling it The Great Resignation. Contemplating a post-COVID economy, more workers are resigning from their jobs than ever and 95 percent of workers are considering changing jobs.

“The pandemic has made many realize their job does not contribute enough (or at all) to their pursuit for happiness and meaning,” writes Anthony Klotz, the associate professor of management at Texas A&M University credited with coining the term. “They have decided to invest their energy elsewhere – in new jobs, new careers or in other aspects of their lives.”

Many have thrived working remotely and don’t want to go back to office cubicles. Many have found unemployment benefits pay better than mininum-wage jobs. Many are looking for creative ways to pay the bills.

When I first heard the phrase “make a living as a permaculturist,” I had visions of hanging out my designer shingle and consulting clients on soil building, rainwater catchment, passive solar houses and gardens. One of the barriers to my ever taking a PDC was my mistaken notion that “certification” meant I would soon be working as some kind of ecological landscaper.

But, face it – I had a job in the nonprofit world of Colorado Springs and there was no way I could see to migrate to a permaculture livelihood. 

Later, I came to realize that anything we do that moves our community towards sustainability is permaculture work. In fact, my job organizing a food-localization movement and pay-what-you-can café was making a living as a permaculturist!

You may already be a professional permaculturist and just don’t know it. (If you’re working for a corporation based in another town, you’re probably hurting the cause and just don’t know it.)

You may consider moving to another livelihood as you dream of growing your own food and working your permie homestead. Buddhists call it “Right Livelihood”: to make a living in a way that does not cause harm and is ethically positive.

Imagine a livelihood that does not promote the consumption of natural resources and burning of fossil fuels. Imagine a job that advances the fair share of society’s surplus.

Rather than calling this new trend “The Great Resignation,” perhaps we should borrow a term from Rob Hopkins and Transition Town – The Great Unleashing!

Here’s a beginning list of ways to work that serve the community in a special way:

• Sustainable transportation:

1. Bike shop

2. Biodiesel auto shop

3. Mass transit

• Local food

1. Restaurant that locally sources

2. Grocery store retailing local producers

• Plants & Food

1. Landscape/Earthscape

2. Garden shop

3. Gardener

• Sustainable shelter

1. Building/construction (green or natural building company)

2. Carpentry/woodworking

3. Real estate (helping people get access to land for homesteading)

• Sustainable energy

1. Solar power

2. Wind power

3. Solar-thermal heating systems

• Government

1. Parks & Recreation 

2. Public library

3. Planning

• Science & Academia

 1. Biology

 2. Zoology

3. Botany

4. Climate

5. Economics

6. Hydrology

• Education

1. School teacher

2. College professor

3. Journeyman/trainer

4. Master gardener

5. Permaculture design instructor

• Nonprofit organizations

1. Sustainability

2. Environmental protection

3. Food security

4. Energy

5. Social Justice

This is just a start – got more ideas? We’d love to hear from you on our road towards the New Normal!