Permavangelism: How NOT to spread the word about permaculture

How to share the good news about permaculture, without preaching to the choir or scaring people off.
Permavangelism cartoon by Katie Shepherd
 Artwork by KT Shepherd.

Sharing versus Preaching

As we wind down our year together, it’s time to focus on your whole system design project.

​If you’re really going for it, this will include a plan for sharing information with others, about your project and about permaculture in general. This article is an invitation to consider the less-obvious aspects of that work, namely: are you accidentally putting people off by being too vague, aggressive and/or not meeting them where they’re at?

Permaculture, like anything else humans invent, may quickly devolve into jargon and elitism without applying some very basic tenets about how we communicate, especially when teaching or explaining a concept. So…don’t let it happen! Resist the temptation to “permavangelize” and focus on creating simple, hands-on experiences so that learners can truly embody this wisdom, rather than just hearing about it. Share your surplus information, tools, and resources, for the benefit of others, and share the conversation too. Listen more than you talk, and use what you learn to refine your focus.

And, while we’re doling out unsolicited behavioral advice:

No matter what, always focus at least 50% of your “permaculture time” on design and implementation. 

For every hour you spend talking, reading, social media-ing about permaculture, spend another hour working with the land, helping others, and regenerating living systems. Hands in the soil. Daily.

Karryn Olson works with a diversity of permaculture people and she also studies business and marketing. She sees what type of “permaculture outreach” (which is really just marketing, if you think about it) works…and what doesn’t.

Check out her article here, about common mistakes people make when they finish a permaculture course.

Karryn Olson permavangelism

Do’s and Dont’s of Recruiting New People to Your Projects


  • Start with the people who are already in the neighborhood, whether literally or idealogically, and help them build capacity, before trying to convert folks who are decidedly in opposition to your work.  
  • Always keep facts and data in balance with emotions and opinions, in all media, materials, and/or live presentations.​Present tangible, relatable examples that people can naturally connect with.
  • Reach out to new people with a consistent, heartfelt welcome message that gives them the most important bits of information about how you can help solve problems that are relevant to them.
  • Be yourself, relax, and have fun!


  • DON’T go on at length about your personal opinions. Share the airwaves with everyone else, equally.
  • DON’T forget to credit sources and include relevant connections. Shine a light on others and it will reflect back on you a thousandfold.
  • DON’T make assumptions about the people you talk to. You don’t know them. Meet them where they’re at, based on what they tell you, and find ways to open permaculture doors for them, as kindly and compassionately as you can.

If you’re finding opportunities to permavangelize, it’s likely because you’re attending public events. And sometimes the “evangelical” style of outreach can just be a result of nervousness about being out in public and meeting so many new people. The fastest way to relax, find your center, and stay focused on the facts is by gaining true confidence in your abilities as a public speaker. (Public speaking rates #2 most common biggest fear in people!!)

This nifty chart below might help. It focuses on a whole-body approach, which seems appropos for us permies, right?


Want to learn more about this and other topics related to permaculture, sustainability, and whole-systems design? We offer a range of FREE (donations optional) online courses!

Relevant Links and Resources​

50 Ways to Spread Your Word on the Internet

Stop preaching, start teaching what you know

If you want to invite folks to participate in this program, here are a couple of videos you could share with beginners

Permaculture for Beginners (old version)
What Permaculture Is & Isn't, w/Heather Jo Flores (Food Not Lawns & Permaculture Women's Guild)
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