Perma-WHAT? Designing Waste & Water Management



Perma-WHAT? is a series of posts that highlight some of what I am doing and would like to do better in the field of permaculture. I am presently raising funds to enroll in a permaculture design program this September. If these posts speak to you, you can help me out by donating at my GoFundMe campaign page. Thanks for reading!

Waste and water management are honestly the areas I know of where I still have the most to learn when it comes to permaculture design. Other designers I have interacted with are able to look at a space and immediately identify some possibilities for how water can be redirected and how waste can be managed, repurposed, or eliminated. I'm not there yet, but I want to be.

Heading to Zero Waste

For the last year in particular I've been challenging myself to more consciously consume with the accmulated waste of a product in mind. I managed to go six weeks last summer producing only one bag of trash, and started a traveling collaborative art piece for artists intrigued by the idea to add to and pass off to one another.

This year I've been challenging myself to 93 days of trash-free living (May 31st to August 31st). It's gotten me to step up my compost game, my recycling and re-use habits, and even my weaving skills. 

Plastic-Weaving, A Million Cans, & A Million Jars

Last year one of my friends laughed about my idea of keeping trash until I could figure out what to do with it. The idea does seem to be on a verge of hoarding, but rather than allowing myself to amass a huge amount of garbage, I've been careful to change my buying habits first instead. That said, I do have two boxes full of jars and cans I hope to eventually re-purpose for various projects.

And as I mentioned above, plastic-weaving is a skill I'm picking up. Last year one of the things that bothered me was that I couldn't find single rolls of toilet paper for sale anywhere, so I had to buy them in these bulk plastic wrappings that I can't recycle here. This year, I have a plan: I can spin the plastic into a central cord for basket-weaving projects. This idea has also helped me help other people with a lot of plastic waste--including family members who still use single-use grocery bags for whatever reason.

Designing With Waste

Beyond just changing our consumer habits (and I'll note here that a plant-based vegan diet produces much less waste than any other diet I've seen folks observe), permaculture provides an opportunity to design with waste management in mind. While work with rainwater in the landscape is probably the hallmark waste management feature of permaculture, I see a degree of planning closed-loop cycles (even outside an animal ag context) as another key expression of this theme.

And whether it is a conventional topic or not, the reality of modern life on Earth is that humans have added a significant amount of plastic waste to the environment. How will we create alternatives to this system? How will we re-purpose the waste that already exists? These are questions already driving me.

Learn more about humanity's plastic pollution by checking out National Geographic's Planet or Plastic? campaign.

If my ideas speak to you at all, please consider donating any amount you can spare to help me enroll in a permaculture design program beginning this September. Thank you and thanks for reading!


Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to