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if permies were given $500, 000, what should we do?

 
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Paul and a few dedicated permies brainstorm about a hypothetical situation in which permies.com is given $500,000 with the stipulation that
1. it must be spent on something that would change the world and
2. It would make $500, 000, so that it would be self-funding over time

Do you agree with their analysis?

https://permies.com/wiki/227664/Podcast-Struggling-big-spend-Part#1958136
 
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Buy land in a warmer climate zone and set-up shop there...it may attract folks too timid to brave the cold.
 
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I have an idea that works for goal number one. Washington State has a program that gives matching grants to owners of historic barns to help preserve the barns. The owners then have to open the barn for tours once a year or so. What if Paul set up a similar program that gives grants to build rocket mass heaters? Maybe match half of the cost of construction, up to $500?

Conditions could be:

1. Must be built according to one of the plans available from Permies.com, Ernie and Erica's book or batchrocket.eu
2. Must be inspected by a person who has been trained by the artisan behind the plan that was used.
3. The finished RMH must be made available to warm the butts of the public at least one day a year.
3.a. If an artisan was hired to build the RMH, that artisan may use that butt warming day as a marketing opportunity.

I see that the Washington barn preservation program has a board, whose job it is to approve grants and shepherd grantees through the process. That would probably be necessary in this case as well.

As far as goal 2, I do not know. Maybe the artisans who benefit from the marketing would be asked to pay a referral fee for any new customers that they gain from the buttwarming day? Or, instead of a grant to the owner it could be a loan.

The main goal would be to jumpstart the RMH industry. More RMHs, more professional installers, cleaner heat.
 
pollinator
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I assume that in-person Wheaton Labs stuff generates the most money (besides Kickstarter) and permies.com is the way 80% of the people who visit hear about it.

As someone who does a lot of digital marketing and content creation, I'd throw money that way since that's what I know best. Build quality backlinks to permies.com

I think I found permies through the YouTube rabbit hole > Geoff Lawton > Deep Green Permaculture > Permies.com So cross-promotion campaigns.

I also think YouTube Shorts & TikTok are underutilized, I've spent a good amount of time analyzing the YouTube Shorts algorithm, and what other permaculture channels are doing. Some channels have grown to 300k subs in under 9 months of using it. People want short-form quality learning content.

I tried marketing the BBW book with a smallish budget but ran into some censorship/trolling. With a bigger budget maybe that could be punched through. If I had a budget I'd probably build SKIP a standalone website and a much more organized how-to-build X thing website similar to my open-permaculture.com experiment that backlinked to permies.

Whatever is left would need to go into Wheaton Labs' infrastructure to facilitate making that money back via the real in-person economy.
 
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I would create a community where people could come and practice gardening, building and other skills with variety of natural building materials to make comfortable accommodations for folks wanting to stay and learn aspects of self sufficient living skills for the community growing food supply and producing variety of produce and value added food stuffs and other natural products that could be sold locally and or online to help support the endeavor.
 
Monica Truong
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Keep them ideas coming! Practical is fine. Crazy is good. Who knows!?
 
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Buy enough gold in the international market to make half a million dollars more
 
master gardener
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I like the idea of investing the lump, and utilizing the dividends to advance Permaculture awareness through marketing and grants.

Putting the money into a trust that is tailored to be self sustaining and earmark the future 'profit' so that it can persist into the future for generations to come. I'd hope that Wheaton Labs will continue long past us all along with the ideas and inspiration that comes from it.

I like the idea of a sum of grant money that can be utilized for impactful projects. A lot of permaculture that we utilize involves a time and effort sink because money is not something that many people have or want. However, if someone created a SOLID plan to transform a barren area into a food forest or introduce water retaining projects to halt desertification then money can speed things up. Somebody might do the PEP program, prove themselves to be a perfect candidate for an Otis but doesn't want to take over a farm. Instead they have their own acreage but want to do something BIG. I'm talking eye popping. Create a community food forest? Work towards creating an edible tannin-free acorn? Something big. Maybe a grant can help push the greater good. I'd love to see a philanthropy aspect... if we sat on this kind of money!
 
Tj Simpson
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Monica Truong wrote:Keep them ideas coming! Practical is fine. Crazy is good. Who knows!?



Snoop Dog will do 16 bars for 250k, get him to rap about lighting up an RMH then put the rest of the $$$ toward a YouTube ad campaign promoting Paul's channel. lol
 
Timothy Norton
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Snoop Dog will do 16 bars for 250k, get him to rap about lighting up an RMH then put the rest of the $$$ toward a YouTube ad campaign promoting Paul's channel. lol



I just belly laughed so hard. Scrap my idea. This is the way.
 
Jeremy VanGelder
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So our own Sherri Menelli and Roger Savory have a plan to green the desert around the Salton Sea. If it succeeds, it would directly improve the lives of millions of people who live in LA and San Diego. It would also prove the concept of holistic management in an undeniable way here in the US. They have put out 6 podcasts, set up a website and are going after the Carbon Removal X prize. Their fifth podcast is about "True Profit" and how holistic management would bring in money and other benefits for centuries. But I bet they could use some money to get this thing off the ground. Maybe Paul could tell this donor, "Thanks, but you could put your money into the folks at FixDeserts.com"
 
pollinator
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Leverage it up at much as possible with matching funds etc, to buy up oil/gas/coal mining rights and take them off the table.  Just like buying land for conservation, the sooner we “run out”, the sooner we start addressing consumption.

A bit of discussion on the subject:

https://www.eenews.net/articles/could-non-use-rights-boost-conservation-lands/
 
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I like some of the ideas here!

My plan with my own $$ after I retire is to start a green building company. I want to build something like Earthships (but different). Whether you love the Earthship design or hate it, you have to admire what Mike Reynolds has done with his Earthship Biotecture.

I think this is a good way to invest and grow your money while doing good. You can build and sell, or build then AirBnB. I think AirBnB is the way to go in terms of increasing exposure.

So I hope to see the Wheaton Wofati Construction Company, coming soon.
 
pollinator
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I know there is funding out there for "green" development from several levels of government. I have to wonder if it might be worthwhile to really focus in on some possible points that could become more mainstream and then qualify for some of that funding.

For example, working out a basic, repeatable rmh design that could function in a "standard" or close to standard home. It would need to be able to fit building codes for most of North America, at least to start.
Then partner with an existing group. Habitat for Humanity would be great, since they are already building new houses and community minded. Get some of homes built with rmhs from the start!
Having more of them being built into new homes, and showing their benefits will make selling the ideas much easier.
Investing in a suitable person to do the kind of creation of charitable connections and grant development that would be needed might be a good way to spend some of the money. As well as spending to do the fully documented designs and proofs-of-concepts.
On a dream level, if a solid connection could be made with a group like Habitat, then it would be great to have classes or info to help build permaculture aspects/options into all their builds. Even just having a plant or seed sharing spaces in their restores would be a huge way to increase home food growing general access. And it would be easy enough to start small and then spread to more locations. ( and since their systems already exists, it's a huge savings of time and effort to just hitch on rather than re-inventing the wheel from scratch)
 
Andy Ze
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A rocket mass heater kit is a pretty good idea, in terms of getting that out in the world.
 
Monica Truong
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It's so cool to see all the suggestions here. Paul, Katie and Jay continue their brainstorm in podcast #645, released just yesterday.

https://permies.com/wiki/228642/Podcast-Struggling-big-spend-Part#1971241

 
Tj Simpson
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Since part 2 mentions it.

I will be coming out to film & edit video in October. I'm not a professional videographer but am in virtual production; the skills should translate.

We'll see how much filming I do, maybe I'll make a thread to brainstorm what people want to see.

I COULD transition to BOOT but the deal would have to be really sweet for me to drop some other things I'm doing to stick around long-term.
 
Monica Truong
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Paul, Katie and Jay continue to 'chew the cud' on the topic of spending $500 000 on a project to save the world.

Listen here:
https://permies.com/wiki/229814/Podcast-Struggling-big-spend-Part#1983853

More importantly, add your two cents here!

 
Timothy Norton
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T Simpson wrote:Since part 2 mentions it.

I will be coming out to film & edit video in October. I'm not a professional videographer but am in virtual production; the skills should translate.

We'll see how much filming I do, maybe I'll make a thread to brainstorm what people want to see.

I COULD transition to BOOT but the deal would have to be really sweet for me to drop some other things I'm doing to stick around long-term.



That is awesome! It sounds like it will be a great experience. I can't wait to see what your hard work turns into.
 
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Invest
 
Tj Simpson
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Here is a link to a regenerative agriculture investment platform: https://gosteward.com/projects
 
Tj Simpson
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Perhaps start some kind of co-op business and leverage the ant village to create some kind of physical product line?
 
pollinator
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Certificates of deposit are ~4% right now, $500k x 4% = a $20,000 return.
Use this $20k as starting capital for a RMH kit venture. Bulk purchases to get favorable prices, resold (pre-cut?) as a kit(s), shipped.
A.) Make a bulk purchase of shippable RMH cores? A vacuum cast refractory core? A ceramic fiber board core (like Walker Stoves)? A pre-cut set of firebricks as a kit?
B.) Barrels (or manufactured substitute with better aesthetics), and then cut/shape/prepare them to be riser parts, ready to install.
C.) Riser materials : ceramic fiber board or blanket, or fire bricks.
D.) A basic kit of 6" or 8" pipes, tees, elbows, cleanout caps, for the bench. (more a'la carte)
E.) Crating and packing it all into kits, possibly inside the "barrels"
 
Andy Ze
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That's what I'm talking about Kenneth!

I think something that Wheaton Labs folks might not understand is, the majority of people are busy working, or watching kids, or they don't have access to metalworking tools. If they're going to adopt an RMH, gotta make it easy.
 
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Farm Camp - a bridge between city life and permie life for those not yet ready to take the full plunge but wish to acquire some skills. I envision a circle of tiny houses which people rent for a working country vacation. A central cooking area/outdoor canning kitchen near the tiny homes with campsite bathing and toileting facilities. Kids learn where food really comes from. Learning tracks for herbal apothecary, spinning/weaving, growing and preserving food, animal husbandry, building, hydro, solar and wind power. Meanwhile, the vacationers are weeding, watering, feeding livestock, shearing sheep (?) and otherwise paying to labor on the farm. Everyone goes home with a closer-to-the-land experience, some veg seeds they can grow in pots and preservation methods they can use at home.

Anyone want to partner up? lol
 
Andy Ze
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A "gift shop" at Wheaton Labs isn't a horrible idea. So boots can sell stuff they've made, including RMH heaters hopefully.

A virtual storefront would be nice too. Etsy or something.
 
Kenneth Elwell
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Certificates of deposit are ~4% right now, $500k x 4% = a $20,000 return. So, that's EACH YEAR, (rate dependent) maybe another business...
Use this $20k as starting capital for a Permaculture nursery/seed company. GAMCOD? Gotta grow a billion seeds somewhere... Start thousands of trees somewhere...
A.) Begin in a good climate zone / market area. More customers = more sales. Core seed and tree line.
B.) Expand seed and tree offerings in future years
C.) Future years: Expand to other climate zones / regions. More variety, especially zone dependent crops.
D.) Select for varieties that folks can save their own seeds from /or increase their own stock by divisions, so that they can be self-sufficient. (...and become advocates for your company, while still buying stuff they haven't got from you yet, because you have created a new generation of plant hoarders!)
 
pollinator
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Pj Pape wrote:Farm Camp - a bridge between city life and permie life for those not yet ready to take the full plunge but wish to acquire some skills. I envision a circle of tiny houses which people rent for a working country vacation. A central cooking area/outdoor canning kitchen near the tiny homes with campsite bathing and toileting facilities. Kids learn where food really comes from. Learning tracks for herbal apothecary, spinning/weaving, growing and preserving food, animal husbandry, building, hydro, solar and wind power. Meanwhile, the vacationers are weeding, watering, feeding livestock, shearing sheep (?) and otherwise paying to labor on the farm. Everyone goes home with a closer-to-the-land experience, some veg seeds they can grow in pots and preservation methods they can use at home.

Anyone want to partner up? lol



This with a strong emphasis on what each participant can do starting from where they are no matter where they are. A final module brainstorming their personal Next Step.
 
pollinator
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Summer camp for kids?
Granted I don't know how much money is generated by summer camps, but I believe them to be at least self-sustaining. A camp where your kids learn skills. Some families pay a lot of money for specialized skills camps (sports camps, but also music, and coding) maybe those families wouldn't be interested in the permies type of skills? But I bet some would. You'd need lodging and staff. The staff would also learn skills, college kids often get out of for the summer before younger kids so there could be a training where they had to "graduate" from in order to be hired on for the camp program? it seems the skip/pep program is already the content for both the camp and the training program. Of course, insurance and safety will dictate that some of the skip/pep content is not suitable due to liability concerns.
 
pollinator
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Two thoughts:

First and foremost, what is the accounting method? How do we define the 500k return? Is this cash money or equivalent value?

Second, it would be helpful to have a transcript of the podcasts. I'm afraid I can't spare the time to listen; but I read at light speed. Help me out, folks.
 
Tj Simpson
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There are summaries on the podcast pages but yeah an auto transcriber may be a good investment.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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T Simpson wrote:There are summaries on the podcast pages but yeah an auto transcriber may be a good investment.


Thanks T Simpson! I'll check it out. I'm not a podcast guy generally; but maybe I spoke too soon.
 
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Things that wouldn't pay back but would be neat:
- Pay for RMHs to be added to the building code in all states
- Build a wofati classroom, kitchen and all the stuff to hold events at the lab
- Move basecamp to the lab and sell basecamp

Things that would pay back (over what time period does the $500k need to be recovered?).  CD's pay 5% here and money markets are closer to 5.3% I think.  So that would generate $25k per year to do:
- Youtube/tictok/instagram/tinder influencer to promote permaculture and WL stuff
- Pay famous people to come keynote or lead a Permaculture Conference in Missoula to really bring in a crowd (Justin Rhodes level folks)
 
bruce Fine
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ok, nobody seemed to appreciate the idea of creating a community to teach and promote permaculture. so,
how bout taking the money and buy lottery tickets and try to double it. or could go to a casino and blow it all thinking more could be made from it. or maybe give it to a political campaign so they could buy advertising to promote some type of twisted idea.
 
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Thinking about what I want and value - definitely resiliency for my farm wrt water, food, power, shelter, pasture improvement, orchard improvement.

So anything I would suggest would assume that other farmers want the same things for their farm. Training in those areas and possibly group purchases in those areas.

I would buy a RMH core if it would help permies with its budget, as I'll possibly never get around to building one myself. Bulk purchases of solar panels and controllers and the training to install and maintain. Lists of arborists that Permies people recommend. Bulk purchases of water pumps, including solar water pumps. Lists of contractors with heavy machinery that can do swales, terraces etc (e.g. that someone in Permies has used and can recommend).

A catalogue of places that sell perennial plants - seeds/starts.
 
Melissa Ferrin
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I had a bit a free time this afternoon and decided to look into the business of summer camps for kids.   Apparently in the US, the summer camp sector is a 3 to 4 billion dollar sector. And profit margins run from 10 to 40 %.  
Sports camps are the most popular (about 40% of the market). But "wilderness" camps are the second most popular kind of camps as parents look to get kids away from screens.

Before COVID-19, summer camps in the U.S. served 26 million children and teens in over 15,000 camps, staffed by 1.2 million seasonal employees, says Tom Rosenberg, president of the American Camp Association.



I do think this would be a really interesting direction for Wheaten labs--the drawback being the difficulty in arriving at the camp. Of course, a lot of the most profitable camps are just a couple of hours' drive from a major metropolitan area.  The plus would be that the PEP badges can already serve as a curriculum. And you could also try to use SKIP as a source of counselors. I often hear Paul talking about how young people should rethink attending university, so if they came to Wheaten labs in the fall or spring, were boots working on SKIP thingies, then they could get hired on over the summer for a couple of kids and teens camp sessions.  The infrastructure created for the camp, can be used for other programs when camp is not on.  The added plus is the potential for fwins separated at birth finding each other at the camp.
 
Mary Combs
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Child camps - Taking over custodial care of children without their parents attending sounds like a whole new dimension of liability and compliance (with building regs for accommodation, with health and safety laws, event insurance, etc.) I'm not saying its impossible, but consider any changes needed to the operation of the facility and what that might mean for its current mission. If Paul wanted to go down this route, perhaps there are event companies out there that, for a split of the takings, handle all that administrative head ache and child minding, so Permies could get on with just the activities that form part of their mission.

Perhaps it would be as lucrative and carry a lower level of liability to look at corporate team building events. In these days of remote working, companies have to work harder at achieving team mentality. When I was working in a company, I probably participated in an off site team building event every other year. There are disadvantages and disincentives (few team building events that I recall were 'dry' and usually evening meals were catered).

Perhaps parent/child events for home schooled kids would be viable without carrying so much liability and without impacting the mission so much. Sadly, most home school families I know of are living a lifestyle that doesn't produce a lot of extra cash for paying camp fees.

 
master steward
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I find child camps intriguing.  If one objective is to spread the message, then who better to spread it to than children?   The barriers may not be as great as they seem.   If the desire is to have one within range of a larger metropolitan area, then why not?   Camps can be rented…with buildings already approved. My organization rented an entire camp several days a year for several years.   This toe in the water approach would give a better idea as to the needed investment and returns without a full scale commitment.
 
Mary Combs
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Child camps - maybe create a module that camps could buy to add to their own curriculum. Possibly existing camps could 'hire' a Permies staff member or two to do a 'guest speaker' day to lead some Permies style activities. Relatively inexpensive and totally within Permies existing wheelhouse and mission.
 
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