Vocab Lesson : Regenerative > Sustainable

Written By: Kathryn Nelson - The Plastic Free Mermaid





  1. tending to or characterized by regeneration.

    "natural regenerative processes"

Regenerative is a process-oriented whole systems approach. The term "regenerative" describes processes that restore, renew or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials. Regenerative design uses whole systems thinking to create resilient and equitable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nature.







    able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.

    "sustainable economic growth"


    able to be upheld or defended.

THIS would be appropriate if what we had was GOOD, WORKING, SUPPORTIVE of life and humans and planet.

We all know that our current collective practices we all participate in are NOT WORKING for us or our planet, so sustaining current systems is not the answer or even close to what we need.



Sustainable practices, by definition, seek to maintain the same, whereas regenerative practices recognize that natural systems are currently impacted and it applies management techniques to restore the system to improved productivity.


A bit confusing, as regenerative and sustainable actions can use the same practices, the difference is in the application and management of those tools.


The highest aim of ‘sustainable’ development is to satisfy fundamental human needs today without compromising the possibility of future generations to satisfy theirs, the goal of regenerative design is to develop restorative systems that are dynamic and emergent, as well as beneficial for humans and other species. This regeneration process is participatory, iterative and individual to the local community and environment it is applied to. This process intends to revitalize communities, human and natural resources, and for some, society as a whole.



Thus, localized reassessment and redesign of systems to be REGENERATIVE is in store and within reach. Basic models that instead of abandoning waste, view it as a resource. As in circular economies and business models. Like composting. Like recycling of glass, which is never downgraded (like plastic) and the recycled product is always like new.


The New Economy movement considers that the current economic system needs to be restructured to prioritize people and the planet. Human well-being should always win over economic growth. We need regenerative agriculture, architecture, community planning, cities, enterprises, economic strategies, and ecosystem regeneration.

Sustainability assesses whether or not the current rate can be maintained. The current rate is too consumption focused to be sustained. Regenerative design mimics nature. Let us embrace regenerative businesses, systems, approaches with supportive energy and always full-picture analysis.