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Regenerative Design & Intentional Sustainability

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 31st, 2010

Source: Worldchanging

From “Living Future 2010: Bill Reed on Regenerative Design” by Julia Levitt:

Thought leader, designer and consultant Bill Reed led a lecture and discussion on regenerative design on the first morning of the 2010 Living Future unConference.  He opened by offering two big questions to the audience: if sustainability is about sustaining life, then what is life about? What will our design practices and organizations look like if we are intentional about sustainability?

As one of his main points, he discussed that the words we use are powerful tools for both inspiring and deluding ourselves, so it’s important to be honest about what we mean. “Sustainable” and “regenerative” are words which, when spoken conscientiously, evoke a much more comprehensive and long-term vision than “green,” “recycled,” or even “energy efficient.” Even “carbon neutral,” he argued, isn’t really his idea of sustainability. If the ultimate goal is to replicate nature and to create systems for sheltering and feeding ourselves that are truly regenerative, it’s important to recognize that sustainability is not the same as zero.

As an example of what this philosophy looks like in a business venture, he described his interaction with a cooperative grocery store in Brattleboro, Vermont. The client originally wanted to create a LEED-certified building to house its store, a goal to which Reed (a founding board member of the US Green Building Council and original LEED faculty) responded with a question he said he asks often: “‘do you want to do LEED, or do you want sustainability?'” During what he referred to as the “Double Train Wreck Meeting,” he proposed a set of recommendations for systemic change. His clients, not ready to move beyond their idea of a simple green grocery store, politely asked him to leave, and didn’t call back for a year.

When they did call back, however, he said they apologized and told him that the ideas he’d left them with were “the best thing that ever happened to them.” They have since worked with Reed’s firm to change the co-op’s relationship to the community, to food suppliers, to the local forest service and more, transforming from a grocery store into what he called “a fooding process,” a place where people could come to shop for food, but also to engage with community, learn to grow and prepare food, and move the community toward self-sufficiency and food security.

Read the full article by Julia Levitt.

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