From Sustainable to Regenerative: The New Wave of Sustainability

5 min readMay 21, 2021


Photographer Yaoqin Wang, Model: Ivana Doman

In recent years, the notion of sustainability as a ritual for businesses and individual’s day-to-day routines has reaped comprehensive fame and positive reception from society. Since then, there have been many innovative developments with technology, legislature, and business policies across the globe, but is sustainability the right term for the movement? Why do we want to sustain the current environment when the aim is regenerative.

An unbiased evaluation would show that there have been improvements in environmental awareness, there hasn’t been much movement when it comes to sustainable action. Global warming will continue to increase as long as carbon emissions persist to surge. The UN reported that ‘urgent transformational’ alterations must be made to sustain the current 1.5 degree Celsius temperature increase and is compelling nations to be more proactive with their environmental efforts. A suggested method to carry this out is with the standard of regenerative sustainability.

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What is Regenerative Sustainability?

Much like other pioneering understandings, regenerative sustainability is yet to have a standardized description, but the idea is comprehended as a method that allows our social and ecological structures to sustain a healthy condition while also continuing to evolve for the demands of the future. Regenerative sustainability is an ideal based on design, it addresses improving on tangible systems that already exist. The foundation of regenerative sustainability according to Bill Reed, a sustainability specialist, is to create a natural gravitation towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Sustainable vs. Regenerative

The practice of regeneration refers to the strategies used to reestablish a system's efficiency, while sustainability suggests to support a procedures maintenance without deteriorating them.


The simplest and oldest way of implementing regenerative sustainability is through farming, originally called permanent agriculture then changed to permaculture when learned its relevance to social and developmental aspects. Prior to the conclusion of the season, farmers use pig waste to bring more nutrients to the ground after farming. This process contributes to regenerating the soil for the next season, leaving it better than it was before, creating a regenerative sustainable cycle.

Benefits of Regenerative Sustainability

Along with supporting regeneration to the ecosystem and a healthier lifestyle, regenerative sustainability also makes it significantly harder to falsify a brand’s environmental efforts. The term sustainability may be losing its productivity because of its misuse and its lack of accountability enforcement, so changing the narrative towards regeneration will leave little room for excuses. This system relies on actions and results, which will make it suggestively more challenging for brands to get away with minimal sustainability contributions.

Inner Sustainability

Makes reference to the facets of being that are intangible; such as perceptions, theories, morality, and spirituality.

Outer Sustainability

Refers to tangible attributions of existence that ascend from Inner; i.e. government, ecosystems, economy, legislature. It should answer the question “what is being done to make things better?”

Studies have been done on both sides of sustainability and several scholars agree that the underlying issue with successful sustainability is the ignorance of the inner. Regenerative Sustainability interprets all life as one, therefore one must regenerate oneself in order to be successfully sustainable.

Creating a Regenerative Society

Understandably the inhabitants of a society will affect its ability to thrive, so why not start there? In order to regenerate the ecosystem, we need to regenerate a degenerating society, which would include achieving higher levels of health and wellbeing. Along with regenerating one’s self, there should be rippling effects throughout infrastructure, food systems, cultural practices, and more. Regenerative sustainability supports the idea of a forever shifting state of systems, not solutions to problems, it requires an alteration in the way society thinks and moves as a whole.

Gif via Brit Morin on Pinterest

The New Economy Movement

Regenerative sustainability is intertwined with the tactics and thinking involved with the new economy movement, which suggests that the current economic structure in place needs to be rethought. The new economy retains a core value of prioritizing the well-being of humans and not an economic success.

Three Sectors of Sustainability


  • Systematic global perception
  • Division Anthropocentrism (the belief that humans are the most important entity)
  • Productivity
  • Economical progression
  • Regulating humans & nature
  • Nominal human well-being
  • Extenuating harm


  • Social Justice
  • Rewarding Life
  • Intricate innovative systems
  • Social, ecological and technical strategies
  • Acknowledging issues and creating solutions
  • Environmental viability
  • Transdisciplinarity (holistic approach to research)
  • Use-Inspired research


  • Holistic universal perception
  • Deep leverage points (places within a complex system where a small alteration can change everything)
  • Collaborative innovation
  • Flourishing organic systems
  • Double integrals (inner systems ensure existence of outer systems)
  • Pure Potential (manifesting potential and essence)
  • Revolutionary improvement in developmental change

The Verdict

Regenerative Sustainability takes it a step further and works to encourage a system built upon restoration rather than maintenance. We still have much to learn about this system, but innovation is what will bring us closer to achieving our goal of eliminating waste and reducing carbon emissions.

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Originally published at on May 21, 2021.




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