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.

8 Ecopreneur Podcasts for Permaculture & Regenerative Startups

When it comes to the best resources to get information across, I find there’s nothing more captivating than a good conversation. Podcasts present the perfect opportunity for experts, advisors, visionaries, and movers and shakers to divulge some of their best secrets on how we can all achieve.

As ecopreneurs, permaculturists, holistic managers, and regenerative startups, immersing ourselves in as much information as possible is invaluable. However, sometimes reading books and watching documentaries can take up a little too much time.

Podcasts are a great way to wander around topics, gain some great actionable insights, and still have two hands to get stuff one!

Here are some of the most valuable podcasts I’ve found really help me with improving my strategy, providing insider secrets to help boost your productivity when building a sustainable, viable business.


The Disruptive Entrepreneur

What It Is: Hosted by Rob Moore, triple best-selling property author, keynote speaker, entrepreneur, and investor, The Disruptive Entrepreneur offers a variety of content, including interviews with founders and entrepreneurs, as well as educational content from some of Rob’s own lectures and lessons.

Why You Should Listen To It: Rob provides actionable insights for businesses looking to grow, from marketing tips to leveraging social media to putting accountability measures in place. Have a pen and paper for each episode, because you’ll walk away each session with a myriad of steps you can take straight away. This is an especially good podcast if you’re looking to increase customer awareness and infiltrate your target audience.


The Rise of the Ecopreneur

What It Is: This interview-style podcast is hosted by Shelbi, a well-known sustainability vlogger. Each episode jumps into deep conversations with ecopreneurs, environmental experts, sustainability stakeholders, and regenerative start-up founders. It explores how and why these people are successful, providing tips on how to reach the same level with your own endeavours. Aimed at those who are passionate about regenerative action, this podcast is a winner for those looking to expand in green business.

Why You Should Listen To It: Shelbi has a great array of approachable guests on who provide touchable advice that you can follow from the get-go. Instead of talking about how money breeds money, this podcast gives you great insight into how to get going with what you have, how to deal with some of the conflicts that come between eco-friendliness and entrepreneurship, and provides a comforting backdrop that allows you to see how each entrepreneur pursued their goals. This is ideal if you’re a founder or visionary wondering how to get up and go.


Mixergy

What It Is: Hosted by Andrew Warner, who built a $30mil/year company in his 20s, this podcast is a place to learn from really successful, proven entrepreneurs from all sectors. While not focused directly on ecopreneurship, this podcast dives right into the creativities used and barriers faced from real-world founders. This podcast has a mix of interviews with high profile guests, as well as some lecture style podcasts rom experts, and some updates on what’s going on in the business world.

Why You Should Read It: Use cases provide excellent examples of what we need to do to get from where we are to where we want to be. Andrew’s easy-going interview style doesn’t stop him from asking the tough questions we all want to know the answers to. This podcast is a great resource for actionable steps to increasing revenue and decreasing working hours, while building sustainable structural systems within your own venture.


The Permaculture Podcast

What It Is: Hosted by Scott Mann, permaculture practitioner and computer scientist, this podcast is dedicated to education in permaculture, sustainability, and holistic management. One of the longest running permaculture podcasts, Scott provides an environment for listeners to learn from those who are making it work first-hand – the practitioners, the experts, the enterprises, and the educators. Each conversation explores the interviewee’s experience and as well them divulging their personal secrets to success.

Why You Should Listen To It: Scott Mann brings on realistic guests who live their lives running permaculture and eco businesses. These guests give valuable insights into the realism of the struggles that occur and the shortcuts that can be used. The advice is extremely specific to running permaculture style businesses, as opposed to purely entrepreneurial podcasts, allowing you to understand what to expect and to plan for this. You’ll also get very specific tips to help you out.



Permaculture Voices

What It Is: A permaculture-themed podcast aimed at farming, business, and life, this show is hosted by Diego Footer, who also organizes the Permaculture Voices Conference. In this podcast you’ll hear from experts who have chosen paths to follow in permaculture and farming. Diego asks hard questions and opens honest conversation to piece together what it takes to build business in these arenas, with practical advice that listeners can follow – whether than be crop selection,time management, goal setting, or soil regeneration techniques. The podcast has a great range of both tips and techniques, as well as heart-felt honesty and debate on global topics.

Why You Should Listen To It: This is one of the most practical podcasts providing useable techniques to help build business. Not only does it provide help on the actual skills needed and specifics on how to apply them, it also looks into business practices that need to be employed to plan and strategize the viability of your enterprise. This is a great podcast for those specifically looking to create business from farming and agroecology.


0 To 7 Figures

What Is It: While permaculture and regenerative entrepreneurs are not necessarily looking to make huge sums of money, the methods to meeting the final goal of success usually follow similar patterns of strategy. This podcast, hosted by Brandon Gaille, provides quick, snappy tips for helping you to redesign your patterns for better success. Many of the podcasts come as top 10 tips, and cover topics such as sleep, time management, funding, productivity hacks, and startup tips.

Why You Should Listen To It: The fast-paced nature of this podcast gives you great insights if you’re time poor – with many episodes being 10 minutes, you can fit one in over your morning coffee. You’ll find that they give a brief overview of important topics you might not be considering that affect your working practice – such as nonverbal communication, negotiation tactics, stress, and self discipline – but can serious help you make behavioural changes that alter your systematic strategies.


The Regenerative Business

What Is It: Hosted by keynote speaker, author, and executive educator, Carol Sanford, this podcast seeks to bring you responsible entrepreneurs and capitalist investors who are helping to shape the sustainable business arena. In each episode, Carol guides conversation that breaks down how each of these people has made their own endeavour work, what they propose for the future, and how they feel others should approach the startup tasks ahead of them. Particularly focused on the growth of regenerative businesses, this podcast provides and open and honest look inside the lives of those who are working successfully in many arenas of regenerative entrepreneurship, without focusing solely on farming.

Why You Should Listen To It: While this podcast isn’t providing the most practically applicable tips,it does give you an overview of real-world hurdles and starting points. By understanding these use cases, you can see patterns across each entrepreneur which you can mimic, while also avoiding their pitfalls. It’s engaging and authentic and provides education as well as entertainment.


Next Economy Now

What Is It: Founder of Force for Good Fund, Ryan Honeyman, hosts this podcast that singles out the leaders in the sustainability and regeneration fields and asks tough questions about what they’re doing and what we should all be doing in our lives and in our businesses. Some episodes address practical topics like visioning, strategizing, and operations, while others delve into the social, environmental and economic issues faced within business and across the globe. A great mix of science and opinion, each guest is captivating and charismatic, while Ryan leads strong and worthwhile debate.

Why You Should Listen To It: This podcast has some very high-profile guests who help you to understand practical applications of regenerative techniques on a larger scale. With a wealth of experience at their fingertips, these experts bring issues to the table which you may not have considered in your own working practice, while relating them to wider global outlooks. Insightful debates, tough conversations, and well-rounded opinions provide the backbone of this podcast.

5 Observations from my Tropical Garden

OK, so I have been working on this garden in Nicaragua for about a month now. It’s rainy season so it’s been a bit of a busy kafuffle trying to get everything ready before the big rains come. Due to this, there have been a great many changes to the garden very quickly. Here are a few things I’ve observed from working.

  1. Tropical rain is hard to deal with

When it comes to rainwater harvesting, the tropics have their own set of complications. While half the year it’s throwing rain out of the sky like a clown with a bucket, the other half is dry as a bone. While obviously we want harvest as much rainwater as we can in order to keep the plants satisfied in dry season, when that rain comes down in rainy season, it comes so thick and fast that the beds become saturated.

As some work had been done in one area before I came, I can actually compare the different methods used. The guys here had already transplanted tomato plants into terraces when I arrived, without preparing the soil. This means that when it rains, while the terraces help to halt the water, once the bed becomes full, it overflows and the soil starts the erode down the beds. However, I used sheet mulching with rice husks and weeds on the new beds I built. This not only suppresses the weeds, but it holds the water, absorbing it into the rice husks.

I have noticed a few things with this method. The soil isn’t eroding and the weeds are suppressed which means the seedlings seem to be sprouting up at record rate. With the tomatoes, you can see that some areas are more eroded than others, and in those eroded areas, the tomatoes are not growing so well or dying off; especially at the top of the bed.

I’m trying to combat this by laying rice husks down. It’s not impossible but it’s tedious to weave in and out of the plants. Rather than laying green mulch, I’m planting edible cover crops in between; some give nitrogen to the soil, some shade, some are simply weed suppressants, but all of them help to hold and harvest the water.

  1. The insects love anything non-native

When I first arrived here, I was fortunate enough to bump into Scott, one of the teachers at Rancho Mastatal. It was my first day here and his advice was invaluable. He told me that it’s hard to grow food here because the insects are ferocious. I was a little confused at first, because everyone has to eat, but then I realised he was referring to the kinds of vegetables we can easily grow in the UK.

I observed the garden to work out where the insects like to flock to and where they stay away. It became apparent very quickly that native plants were far more hardy to the attacks of the insects. I started to chat to the local guys to find out more about edible weeds and indigenous plants. They pointed me toward a wild bean, certain squashes, indian lettuce, wandering jew, cucaracha, katuk, chaya, and other such plants. I’ve been planting these in the garden and so far, they seem to be much more hardy. While the insects are slowly mauling the tomatoes, they tend to steer clear from these more native species.

The shows that part of permaculture is to think about how to adapt to your surroundings. While it’s great to have an iceberg lettuce for a solid BLT, using native edible leaves as lettuce is going to have a much higher success rate.

  1. The jungle will always try to take the land back

I’ve noticed that I need creative ways to keep the jungle back. Whether that’s using thick mulch or cover crops, it is important to suppress the weeds in order to intensively grow enough food. While I have of course worked in other gardens with weeds growing, the jungle is a different ballgame. If I weed a bed, leave the soil bare, and come back that evening, there will be weeds again.

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Right now I’m experimenting with all different ways. I’ve been planting lemongrass at the edges to use their dense root system to keep back weeds. I’ve also been planting squashes all around the patches, as their large leaves help to keep the weeds back using shade. Varying cover crops a will help me to work out which plants work best with with vegetables to keep the weeds back without affecting the growth of the veggies; the variety also increases the biodiversity.

  1. A decent plant nursery is essential

When I first got here, the garden guys were using plastic crates filled with soil as a plant nursery. There are a few issues with this that prevents seedling sprouting.

Firstly, the rain is so heavy that it leads to the box saturating and becoming swampy. There’s no places for it to drain. Equally, they used the same soil from the ground, without mixing in sand, making it difficult for things to root easily. Secondly, the boxes aren’t shaded and the blistering tropical sunshine leads to seedlings withering; they need some kind of shade.

This week I would like to try to create a plant nursery to start planting lettuce seedlings and peppers. I’m thinking of using plastic bottles as a means to harvest water and build it from bamboo, ensuring drainage, while also giving shade.

  1. Terracing creates a series of microenvironments

I’ve never worked so closely with terraces before and seeing them every day enables me to understand their power. With all gardens, different areas should be treated differently due to their ranging features; some areas have more shade, water, wind, light.

However, interestingly, by creating terraces, we have created several different areas to work with. The top of the terracing tends to get more flooded than the bottom, which doesn’t appear to make logical sense, but it does. This means that plants that like wet feet, tend to be doing better up there; such as lemongrass. With this observation, I planted yucca at the bottom (north). Planting it here was a conscious decision as its northern location means it won’t shade out the garden, but it is also quite drought hardy, so it would be fine with less water.

I have planted varying crops all over the place. As they grow or don’t, I will be able to see what does well together where and replicate this in similar areas. This planting and revision enables me to learn from what I’m dong and to re-evaluate the system to increase its productivity through pattern recognition. It’s frightfully interesting!