What does regenerative mean?
The term ‘regenerative’ describes processes that restore, renew or revitalise their own sources of energy and materials, ensuring the capacity to sustain and nurture all life. Regenerative approaches use whole-systems thinking to build equitable resilience that responds to the needs of society while respecting the integrity of nature. The term is increasingly being adopted in the mainstream, by organisations such as the The Commonwealth, Cloudburst Foundation, Common Earth Consortium and Lush Cosmetics. In language promoting themes of regeneration, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021 – 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
Regenerative development marks an evolution in the concept and practice of sustainable development.
Sustainable or green development has focused on minimising damage to the environment and human health and using resources more efficiently to limit the degradation of earth’s natural systems. Regenerative approaches, however, seek to reverse the degradation of the planet's natural systems and also design human systems that coevolve with natural systems to generate mutual benefits and greater expression of life and resilience.
Regenerative development aims for an integrated, whole-systems approach to the design and construction of human settlements and practices. The field of regenerative development, which draws inspiration from the self-healing and self-organising capacities of natural living systems, is increasingly seen as a source for achieving this end. The pioneering work of the Regenesis Group helped frame the concept of regenerative development over twenty years ago, starting the growth of a field that is now redefining the way that proponents of sustainable development are thinking about and designing for settlements and societies.
Regeneration in context
Regeneration is often a core goal of many frameworks with an ecological focus, such as nature based solutions, biomimicry, agroecology, permaculture, conservation agriculture, forest gardening, natural farming, and bush regeneration. Re-Alliance aims to enhance understanding of the potential of such movements to create regenerative solutions.
Increasingly influential are the shared purposes of regenerative development and nature based solutions, a term adopted by large organisations such as the IUCN, European Union, and the United Nations. As an emerging concept, the framing of NBS is still evolving, with the general objectives stated by the IUCN as ‘the sustainable management and use of nature for tackling societal challenges.’ While the similarities between regenerative and NBS enhance both concepts, there is a need to ensure that solutions take integrated, whole systems approaches.
Read more about regeneration
Below is a collection of external resources that have informed and inspired our focus on regenerative development.
Shifting from Sustainability to Regeneration, by Bill Reed. Building Research & Information, 2007.
Regenerative Development and Design by Pamela Mang, Bill & Reed, Regenesis Group and Story of Place Institute Chapter 303, Encyclopedia Sustainability Science & Technology, 2112
Raising the profile of regeneration and its potential to move livelihoods and economies beyond the sustainable, Ethical Consumer for The Lush Spring Prize, 2016
Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Christian Wahl, Triarchy Press, 2016
Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development, by John Tillman Lyle, Wiley Press, 1996