13 Must-Read Ecopreneur Books in 2019 – for Regenerative Startups & Permaculture Founders

The summer is fast approaching, and no doubt, at some point, you’ll be finding yourself kicking back with a cocktail and a good book soaking up the sun.

So why not make summer 2019 a productive year for reading and learning? Combining the concepts of ecopreneurialism and permaculture can really help to square you away as a viable regenerative startup founder – therefore, immersing yourself in lessons from the experts is an inevitable and invaluable part of the journey.

Over the last year(s), I’ve been fortunate enough to voraciously inhale a myriad of really helpful books – books that I feel will be extremely useful to assisting you on your journey, thanks to their unique angles on business, relationships, and systemic operations.

So if you’re a bookworm looking for something to get your teeth stuck into this summer, check out these gems.


The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is an academic and entrepreneur, and is a wizard when it comes to systems-thinking. I read this book a long while back and it’s one of my go-tos when I want to reconsider the systems I using for efficiency in my life and work.

This book breaks down the habits you form with your own operational patterns and seeks to reimagine and reconfigure those patterns to create new habits that are more productive and fulfilling.

I highly recommend this book if you feel like you’re working tirelessly without results. This book provides real actionable tips that will help you to recognise opportunity and reach goals without having to sacrifice work-life balance.


Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart

While we’re often urged to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, this book puts pay to that idea, imploring us to start again at the beginning with different systems of making things. Rather than working on the ‘cradle to grave’ model, this book is about regenerative design as a way to recreate the products and services we need in the world. In fact, this is a bible for regenerative entrepreneurs looking to really consider how they can make an impact with brand new economics.

Using the permaculture theme of looking to the patterns of nature, this book invites us to reconsider abundance and the natural cycles of this that occur – take the fact that a tomato plant will produce hundreds of seeds! In this sense, this book is a guide on how to design products in the same way.

If you need ideas on what you can create as a regenerative entrepreneur, and how to go about it without repeating the patterns of poor business practices and linear economics, this is the book for you. I like that it’s short, concise, to the point, and extremely practical.


The Empowerment Manual by Starhawk

When we’re starting regenerative enterprises, it is integral to consider the human element of our work. Ensuring that our team are working collaboratively, effectively, and happily is very important to the success of the overall vision.

This is one of my favourite books for getting this message across in a practical and visual way. Starhawk uses a hypothetical scenario of a Transition Town to explain the struggles you may come up against and how to deal with them. The manual also includes actual activities you can use to facilitate mediation, communication, deal-making, and conflict resolution. It addresses some of the key global issues we’re fighting against, as well as showing you how to manage effective collaborative organisations.

This is a key read for anyone who is trying to manage the human element of their operations – which is every regenerative ecopreneur!


The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Habit is one of the many things that unconsciously drives our lives. Whether it is compulsive phone checking or needing a coffee every half an hour, we’re not always conscious of how habitual routines are controlling our lives and therefore our efficiency in business, and our practical decision-making.

I love this book because it makes you really reflect on the habits you have formed, and gives hands-on tips on how to break those habits and redesign useful and purposeful habits that lead toward the outcomes you desire. This book has a bunch of cutting edge science, which is super interesting.

This is a great one if you feel stuck in a rut, as reconfiguring your own pattern will help you to see where you can redesign to push the pendulum again.


Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is one of the most influential entrepreneurs of today. He’s a straight talker, with advice that comes from his myriad experience out in the field. Both a teacher and an innovator, Seth Godin isn’t afraid to make the point that sometimes we fail because we’re just not being remarkable.

This book really helped me to understand the importance of standing out, and of providing something that’s niche enough while pushing boundaries. Seth uses his experience to outline what makes companies different and how you can employ these methods to your own work.

If you feel that your product or service is lacking in some way, or is struggling to stand out from the crowd, this is the book that helps you to work out not only how to market it better, but how to literally make it a better product or service.


Starting Green: An Ecopreneur’s Toolkit for Starting a Green Business from Business Plan to Profits by Dr Glenn Croston

One of the main problems I find with seeking to be an ecopreneur, is that there is little literature that addresses the techniques needed for this exact type of business structure. While we can learn lessons from traditional entrepreneurs, there are new ways in which ecopreneurs need to work to ensure we;re not using destructure methods of capitalism to further our ventures.

This book is a hands-on, practical guide to help you work out how to find green opportunities in business and work to design them appropriately and effectively. I like this handbook because it gives great tips on how to seek actual opportunities and recognise them and the power you have to fulfil them. Equally, Dr Glenn Croston helps you to create a viable business plan to carry your idea, while giving actionable techniques for measuring and surpassing competition, without negating the value of cooperation.

This is an exceptional tool for those looking to structurally outline their vision and create a plan to move forward.


Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

While profit isn’t necessarily the most important element of regenerative business, right now the transitional period from society’s current economic system to the next requires us to understand the value of money. Often, the problem with green business founders, is that the financial elements evade us while we focus on the impact of our company’s ideas.

This book gets you up to speed with the financial side, as much as it may seem to be the antithesis of what we’re trying to achieve. Understanding the beast helps to work to fight it! This book will help you to build a healthier relationship with finances to make better decisions that enable your eco-business to remain viable.

This book is very important if you’re trying to work out how to fund your vision, and works equally well on principle when we apply the theory of diverse revenue types.


When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

I actually drew your attention to Daniel Pink before in my newsletter. Daniel Pink talks about timing. While we often discuss the importance of the ‘how’, ‘what’, and especially ‘why’ when we consider regenerative endeavours, we rarely branch out to truly understanding the ‘when’. Though we know that implementation strategy is integral to permacultural design, we forget to apply it in business.

This book draws your attention to how important ‘when’ is. The psychology, biology and economics of timing are discussed in this book, providing surprising insights into why certain business decisions work or fail depending on the implementation schedule. I love how this book gives you useful tricks on how you should leverage timing in your interactions, deals, and decisions to lead toward higher levels of effectiveness.

This is a must-read for any eco-founder as it helps you to understand how to define an implementation strategy, not just across the long-term but also in daily activities.


The Permaculture Market Garden: A visual guide to a profitable whole-systems farm business by Zach Loeks

When we look at building regenerative businesses, the permaculture ethics and principles are a great way to understand the entire cyclical process of generating and regenerating without waste. However, many permaculturists struggle with the viability of making a ‘profitable’ entity with their small-scale systems.

This book helps you to understand how you can use permacultural skills to live a viable life. While it focuses on being a market gardener, the techniques within the book serve as a useful guide for helping you to understand all the elements you need to consider when it comes to any green venture.

This certainly has a strong sway toward the agricultural side of ecopreneurship and is a great resource for anyone looking to become a market farmer, however it’s also a great resource for anyone looking for practical information on how to design systems that take into account all integral elements for viable profitable opportunities.


The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

When we’re coming up with a vision for our future idea, the end goal can often seem very overwhelming, and we become frozen, unable to start because it all seems to much. The ‘lean’ concept is actually not too dissimilar to practices we employ in permacultural thinking – observing, testing, learning, and repeating.

This book gives real examples of companies that employ this method, and the hurdles they’ve faced, and how they’ve dealt with them using the practical techniques associated with lean thinking. From asking yourself the ‘5 whys’ to getting started with a lean business plan, this book provides excellent methods for testing your ideas and learning from them as you go.

If you’re having trouble getting started – this is the ideal book for you.


Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H Meadows

When it comes to running businesses, systems are vital for measuring success, efficient working, and benefiting from the power of interconnectedness. As permaculturists, systems are the basis of the toolkit that we use to minimise input and maximise output – a principle we should be using in our entrepreneurial ventures.

This book uses methodical thinking and conceptual tools to outline the way systems function, and how they should be designed to provide the most effective routes to working without waste. It helps you to conceptualise the issues with working on elements in isolation, and invites you to reconsider the way you are analysing your own operations. I love this book because it gives you a whole host of ‘aha!’ moments, while deconstructing complicated ideas into easy-to-digest mechanisms for working.

This is a must for anyone designing a venture as it enables you to create and use feedback systems that can help you measure your real impact, while averting crises, and advancing through using systems within systems.


Making Ecopreneurs: Developing Sustainable Entrepreneurship (Corporate Social Responsibility) by Dr Michael T Schaper

This book is more of an overview of the emergence of the ecopreneur and the value that green-thinking entrepreneurs are bringing to the table in addressing issues of waste, productivity, environmental problems, and economic mishaps simultaneously.

This is a great read providing first-hand case studies of how green entrepreneurs are changing the dynamics of market forces. It gives your both insights into what works and what doesn’t work in changing perspectives and influencing behaviour through green ways of operating. This is an important book as it helps you to understand policy decisions and recent developments that are shaping innovation and business on a global level.

For those looking to work with governments, NGOs and large organizations, this book helps to give you the broader reaching perspective.


Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.J Schumacher

I once heard this great saying: If we’re on the edge of a cliff, it’s okay to turn around and take a few steps back.

This book was written a long while ago and considered economics as though we weren’t working on a system of neo-liberal classicism, as though we weren’t considering resources as infinite. If this system of economics had been employed when this book was written, perhaps we would have a very different world today.

As an ecopreneur, this is an important book that helps you to understand how to put peoplecare to the forefront of the systems your designing for your venture. This book looks at the damages of excessive consumption, both on the wider level and in more personal scenarios, and invites you to critically analyse the wasteful processes used in business practices today.

What I love about this book, is that it helps you to consider your own wasteful practices and perhaps unconscious forms of waste and overconsumption in your operations, and invited you to redesign them with peoplecare at the centre.

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Permie Entrepreneurs Are Go #6

Hello again you regenerative rascals, and welcome to your weekly dose of actionable insights and inspiration to help grow your regenertaive startups!

This week, we’re exploring the concept of visioning. When we start out, it is so very tempting to jump straight into strategy, knuckle down and run away with an idea. However, having a vision helps us to know what we’re working toward, to predict the ongoing hurdles we may face, and to practically mesaure our success.

So let’s take a look at some of the experts I’ve encountered this week on my entrepreneurial journey, and decipher what they have to say about visioning.


Self Care

Motivation, Meditation, and Finding Peace in The Information Era by Deepak Chopra (Entrepreneur Mag)

Deepak Chopra is an expert of alternative medicine and advocates this famously through his books, keynote speeches, and presentations. Not only is he well known for his spiritual advocacy of meditation and other forms of energetic healing, Deepak is an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School and an extremely successful entrepreneur in his own right.

In this podcast, Deepak discusses the methods he uses to cope with overstimulation in this world, including the 9 step process he has honed for coming up with ideas and advancing their capacity into a workable solution – whether that be in life or in business.

Lessons from Deepak Chopra

  1. Insight comes from a quiet mind – In the information era, it is hard to find a place to rest our minds. However, if we’re constantly overstimulated, there is no room for the brain to relax and form connections that bring about new ideas. Meditation and quieting techniques are integral to reaching new insight.
  2. The 9 ‘I’s toward new ventures –  Intended outcome, selectively gather Information, Intense dive into analyzing this information, Incubate the ideas by completely letting it go, Insights as spontaneous breakthroughs, leading to Inspiration, Implementation in a small way, Integrate this with everything, Incarnation
  3. Have a morning routine that outline intentions – Deepak starts his day with 4 intentions: To have a joyful and energetic body, To have love and compassion in his heart, To have a reflective, clear mind, and To have a lightness of being. These intentions allow him to face each day with a way to get over stumbling blocks toward his vision.
  4. Stop comparing and redefine success – When we compare ourselves to others, we measure the wrong things to appear successful. Deepak urges one to have a progressive realisation of where you’re going and that if you’re on that path, you are succeeding. Visioning is a great tool to measure this metric.
  5. Long-term success needs passion and joy – You’ll quit if you’re not passionate. Audiences are drawn to those who are enthusiastic and willing to share.

Deepak Chopra is a world-renowned write, who combines entrepreneurial success with spiritualism, connecting the self to the world around it. You can learn some in-depth lessons from his highly acclaimed book –

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams


Entrepreneurial Strategy

4 Steps to Communicating Vision by Michael Hyatt (Lead to Win)

Michael Hyatt is a leadership mentor, who has written and spoken extensively on leadership, goal setting and planning. He is the former chairman and CEO of publishing company, Thomas Nelson, and now leads a podcast to help coach new entrepreneurs into managing business better.

This episode states the importance of visioning as a tool and how we should go about it. As entrepreneurs, we love to dive right in without planning, but this wing and prayer approach leaves us without measurable metrics to understand success, and without a clear action plan to follow to reach any goals we may have. Michael Hyatt uses this episode to run through how and why we should create a vision before asking about strategy, and why this narrative helps us to clearly define products, markets and impact.

Lessons from Michael Hyatt

  1. Visions need to point to a larger story – In order for a vision to be something that remains sustainable, it needs to inspire more than just yourself. The vision needs to hold purpose beyond your own personal success, that points to change in the outside world, as this inspires innovation in thinking across your whole team over time.
  2. Stand in the future and work back – When writing a vision statement, don’t write it as a ‘we will’ document. A vision statement should be written from the future as though you have achieved those things already. In doing this, you can sketch out the details later to fulfil that vision – through reverse engineering, but by putting yourself there, you can truly create a visceral and clearly painted picture of what that future looks like. It should be so compelling, that people want to follow you to that future.
  3. Vision affects hiring – You’ll be hiring people who will make personal decisions on behalf of your company. With a clear vision, you can find people who will represent this and make decisions that fall in line with your overall goal.
  4. Vision statements are powerful filters and decision making tools-  When a question comes up in business, you should be able to run it through your vision statement. If it fits this statement, then the decision should be to go ahead – whether that be a new piece of software, new product, new employee, etc.
  5. Inspirational, Concrete, Practical, Visible – You need to make sure that your vision statement inspires people to want to follow it, while also being clear in its internal culture and outward message. It should be practical, guiding people into exactly how you’ll pursue it and showcase it, while also being visible to the public – this means communicating it constantly and consistently through social media, your website, media, PR, and so on.

Michael Hyatt’s books on leadership and strategy provide easy-to-follow plans for success – starting with vision. If you’d like a step by step guide to success, here’s a great one to get your teeth into.

Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals


Permaculture

Collaboration Over Competition to More Quickly Achieve Our Shared Goals by Whitney Bauck (Green Dreamer)

Whitney Bauck is a conscious fashion writer. The associate editor for Fashionista, Whitney has also contributed writing to the New York Times, The Washington Post, Billboard and many other big magazines. Her own blog, Unwrinkling, dives into exploring some of the heavy topics and shaky issues regarding the fashion industry and its practices, opening debates that need to be discussed frankly and honestly in order to preserve the art, while repairing the culture.

As permaculturists, the idea of fashion can be somewhat abrasive as we associate it with consumerism and throwaway trends. However, fashion is still a route to regenerative entrepreneurship if we recognise its power as a collaborative medium for expression, while remedying some of the more undesirable practices.

In this podcast, Whitney jumps straight in by expressing that while fashion is important, we should not be damaging our planet for it. She wanders around the points of the fashion industry not being held responsible for their practices, not realising the power of their trend-setting, and how people can work together through fashion to achieve the shared vision we’re trying to create in the world.

Lessons from Whitney Bauck

  1. Fashion doesn’t have to be destructive – While the idea of consumerism may seem that we’re turning a quick buck from non-biodegradable fabrics, Whitney points out that through regenerative agriculture and fashion, we have a new route to supporting more entrepreneurial journeys through using sustainable biodegradable natural fibres for clothing. Changing this practice makes good business sense for the farmers, fashionistas, and wearers.
  2. Natural fashion breeds collaboration – The social ecosystem in which natural fashions have been born has led to companies supporting each others within these industries, helping to push a new awareness out to the masses. This collaboration is seeing the trend in natural and sustainable clothing grow rapidly – accelerating our pace toward the end goal of mass adoption and proving that cooperation works more effectively at reaching our shared goals that competition.
  3. Fashion is a place to push agendas – While fashion may have been used to incite consumerism, fashion can in fact, be a place to push agendas. Terms like ‘voting with your dollar’ mean that people who choose more regenerative practices in relation to clothing help to push the agenda of natural fibres and fairer farming practices to shift the paradigms around fashion and consumerism, and encouraging people to purchase natural, organic clothing by making it trendy and current.
  4. More responsible consumerism is possible – While essential that we reduce consumption, by putting money into companies with more eco-friendly and ethical practices, profits are driven through to farmers and workers who are ordinarily penalised in the fashion system.

If you’d like to sneak a closer look at Whitney’s divergent mind, check out her blog on fashion, theology, and consciousness.

UNWRINKLING


Permie Emmy’s Weekly Wild Card

This week I’m goind in hard with the practical. No doubt you’re itching to get started, so let’s put pen to paper with this excellent business model canvas that helps you to unpack what’s in your mind.

Example of how you fill it out, using Patagonia’s business model

The Sustainable Business Canvas by Flourishing Business

I’ve been reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. While I haven’t quite finished it (which is why I haven’t posted it here yet), it does provide a great tool for those looking to start out with a vision for their company. While it’s not a vision statement as laid out above, a Lean Canvas is a way to start asking integral questions about your business and how it would operate.
While ventures that are seeking only profit may benefit from Ries’ template of the Lean Canvas, TheFlourishingBusiness.org has gone one further to provide a business model canvas that fits more suitably with green businesses and ecopreneurship.

Firstly, this slideshow is a toolbox that shows you how to use the canvas and fill it in properly.

The canvas itself, a way to consider all the processes, the stakeholders, and the needs and outcomes that may be associated with your idea. In doing this, you’re able to create a picture surrounding the metrics you may need to measure success, the inputs you’ll require to get it off the ground, and you’ll be able to predict any issues that could arise, while building an action plan to get yourself started.

Here’s a blank version for you!

Lessons from Flourishing Business Canvas

  1. Environment, Society, Economy – Interestingly, this business plan looks at the same three things that we consider in permaculture – earthcare, peoplecare, fairshare – helping you to understand how your idea affects the wider environment and the human resources internally and externally, as well as understanding how various types of revenue move through the system.
  2. Build and Tear Down – This business model allows us to consider not only the empires we intend to build, but also the systems we intend to disrupt to get rid of bad behaviours. It invites us to look into what we’re offering back to the ecosystem, how we’ll build reciprocal relationships, and what poor value systems we’ll deconstruct with our ideas.
  3. From patterns to details – As we would with a permaculture garden, this system enables us to look at the bigger picture patterns we hope to achieve, allowing us to later delve into the details. By breaking down the idea into its components, we can see the wider patterns, enabling us to see the details emerge concerning which actions we need to take and in which order.
  4. A working feedback document – You’ll find that with using this document, you can return to it over and over and refine and improve it as the idea morphs and changes. With feedback loops you may find the stakeholders are different, or the channels to reach customers aren’t working, or that you’re upholding ideas you’d rather deconstruct. While this is a great place to start, it’s also an excellent feedback tool to show change and to measure if you’re sticking to the plan.

You can head over to their website to understand more about what Flourishing Business do, where you’ll find more resources and tips to help you.


Well, my sustainable stallions, I hope this week has been a helpful hand in getting you started toward your journey of growth. Through creating visions we can set a path to the future on which we can build strategy, without galloping out the gate blindly.

I hope it’s been as useful for you as it was for me!

Permie Emmy x

If you’d like to donate toward getting my entrepreneurial journey on the road to building a regenerative business incubator permaculture site, please donate here:

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If you’d like to find out more about what I’m aiming to do with the money, you can read my blog about my plans for a regenerative business incubator.