#3 – Landscaping businesses! The 3rd worst way to make a Permaculture living

Like farming, landscaping businesses come with some major barriers to overcome. First, the whole landscaping industry and all of its tools and services evolved specifically to use exploited labor and unsustainable materials to fight against healthy ecosystem development. 

To be blunt, landscaping is war on nature, and the only way it has ever made money is by exploiting low-paid labor. It’s very difficult to “fix” this paradigm. 

But as we say, “the problem is the solution,” so there is good work to be done finding ways to rehabilitate this destructive industry. 

And those who wish to make some landscaping services part of their livelihood stack may want to check out Growing FREE co-author Jenny’s philosophy on the topic. 

Many of the sustainability barriers are the same as with farming. Would-be Permaculturists get into the business to act regeneratively, then end up with clients demanding fossil fuels, plastics, and poisons. But the landscaping industry adds concrete to its list of degenerative materials, as the concrete blocks common in our landscapes are a major driver of climate change and pollution. 

The truly regenerative landscaper will need to follow Jenny’s lead, finding work-arounds to avoid the destructive practices and materials. Jenny even offers her landscaping without fossil fuels!

For the landscaper, the barriers to it being a good livelihood are equally difficult to overcome. The biggest barrier is that the peak season for landscape service is the same as our peak season in the garden. But as we discussed in Growing FREE, the home-scale garden can easily create $100+/hour, while landscapers rarely earn more than $15/hour after costs.

Permaculturists who start landscaping businesses almost never get around to the most valuable thing they could do for their own financial lives: creating their own Permaculture systems!

Meanwhile, they get stuck in a dead end job that simply won’t help them get free. In the US, a median landscaper will only earn between $16.5k and $29k. Again, landscapers tend to have a low ceiling, and in many locations, even with lots of capital investments, and lots of low-paid labor, they may only make $63k. For those seeking to be regenerative, offering these services without the cost and labor saving tools of plastics, poisons, and harmfully sourced plants makes offering competitive rates very difficult. 

On the scale where Jenny is doing it, it provides a valuable services and a nice “stack” as part of one’s livelihood. But Again, I wouldn’t count on it paying all the bills.

What’s the #2 worst way to make a Permaculture living?

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