At Greenway, we see sustainability as only the beginning of thinking “green.” Thinking beyond sustainability means assessing how human activities can integrate with and actually regenerate, not just sustain, natural systems. Regenerating the ecosystems in which we live as we regenerate ourselves and our communities, schools and businesses is the ultimate win-win approach.
Regenerative Design (RD) goes beyond the sustainability (really, the efficiency) movement by seeking to develop solutions to human and environmental problems that simultaneously regenerate both human and natural systems. In other words, this approach seeks to regenerate economic systems, public and environmental health, and create institutional capacity for meaningful and lasting progress on all fronts, including environmental regeneration. It does not sacrifice, for example, human well-being at the expense of the environment or vice versa.
RD is a “design thinking” approach that is heavily oriented toward creativity and developing solutions that are both socially/culturally appropriate and appropriate for the specific place in which the designs are to be implemented. As such, it is not a black box approach (using something that has worked in one place and simply dropping it in somewhere), but rather seeks to implement a process for identifying the unique strengths of a given area (e.g., a city, town or village) and to build on those strengths.
The idea is that, to the extent possible, solutions would use and build on the existing human capacities, as they use and build on the existing natural (ecological) features of an area. Unique human capacities would need to be assessed and a unique vision made for an area that is reflective of the historical and present sociocultural attributes. At the same time, a thorough ecological assessment (of soils, geology, hydrology, etc.) would be conducted that would identify the best types of systems to develop (economies, food systems, water systems, etc.) given an area’s unique ecological assets.
The idea is to capitalize on what is there already and to work to regenerate both human and natural systems in concert. It is a process that builds local awareness of both what is unique about a place from a human perspective, as well as what the natural systems can provide if utilized properly. By making people more aware of their relationship with their natural resources, and of the bounty that may be available from effective use of those resources, people can claim more ownership over the solutions that they themselves are a part of creating.