Regen Sydney: How can consumption be regenerative?

Regen Sydney: How can consumption be regenerative?

Regen Sydney: How can consumption be regenerative?

Regen Sydney: How can consumption be regenerative?

Acknowledgement of Country: This interview was conducted on Gadigal Country and Gumbaynggirr Country. We pay our respects to the traditional custodians of this land, past, present, and emerging. We recognise their deep connection to the land and their unique cultural heritage, which continues to enrich our shared community.

In this interview, we chatted with co-convenors of Regen Sydney, Alice Howard-Vyse and Kiran Kashyap. 

Regen Sydney is a network of individuals and organisations coming together to envision and collaborate towards a regenerative Sydney, socially and ecologically. Regen Sydney develops vision strategies, facilitates collaborative forms, and develops theories of change for a better future. 

Alice Howard-Vyse is a systemic designer and facilitator, and founder of consulting business, Humanise This. Kiran Kashyap is also a systemic designer, and is on their way to completing their PhD in Transition design. 

What is regenerative consumption?

Kiran: In the natural world, whether plants or animals, everything consumes, but they also give back. Regenerative consumption is about living in balance, taking but also giving.

Our current system is based on overconsumption of goods and services. It's all about taking, without considering everything else, such as production and end of life.

Alice: Regenerative consumption raises systemic questions:

  • Does it heal and restore landscapes?
  • Does it promote biodiversity?
  • Does it create or enable inclusion and quality, within and between communities?
  • Does it repair and revive the environment?
  • Does it contribute to a stable climate?

The notion of regenerative consumption is in our collective memory. Our consumption was regenerative until the Industrial Revolution. At this point, we started manufacturing products that are potentially destructive to – and pervasive in – our environment.

There is much to do to return to regenerative consumption, but there are ways to get there. It's about finding our way through it together.

What are the key aspects of regenerative consumption?

Alice: The first aspect is relationship: understanding the relationship between people, the planet and places we live in. When we think of regenerative consumption, we must ask:

  • Does it promote healthy relationships?
  • Does it restore relationships, or does it detract from it?
  • Does it harm the ecosystems, and over what timescales?
A good or service is regenerative when it considers its relationship – it causes no harm socially or environmentally, but also fulfils a need to enhance life.

Kiran: The second aspect is visibility. Currently, the lack of visibility is causing disengagement. When we call ourselves a 'consumer', it dislocates us from all the relationships that help to create the experience.

When we're connected with the process, we become active citizens – we'll care more about where things come from, the people who create them and the impact they have, socially and ecologically.

Alice: It also comes down to what it is that we love. How do we act in the service of life? What if we started where we are, in our place, to promote and value relationships?

For example, in a local market, we slow down to talk to people and connect. We're part of the community. You can't find that in supermarkets.

Kiran: However, being active citizens can be challenging for marginalised and socially disadvantaged communities. That's why regenerative consumption must be linked to social justice.

It needs everyone – citizens, producers and the system to take on the responsibilities and create space for everyone to participate. We need a broader shift from the market back to the commons, and create space for all citizens to participate.

Can you share the wisdom you've learned from Uncle Phil and the First Nations community?

Alice: We've been lucky to be able to sit with and learn from the incredible Elders, like Uncle Noel Butler and Uncle Phil Bligh, as well as generous Aunties.

The generosity and resilience of First Nations people constantly inspire me. Their culture is strong. Despite everything that has happened, many Elders are still willing to share parts of their knowledge for the benefit of all.

Kiran: The First Nations community is oriented towards spirituality rather than materialism. There is still a focus on objects, but practices and environments have much deeper meaning through ancestral connections, dreaming stories, and spirituality.

Totems are a great example of relationships. The First Nations people are born into stories of having relationships with animals or species that are part of their place. With this practice, the First Nations are managing overconsumption and overhunting to balance the ecology.

Alice: Uncle Phil asked a question: 'how do we live in this land with joy?'

First Nations people understand that humans are not on top or outside the system. We're all equal. It's about how we uphold natural law and humans as keystone species in that. I'd like to think I'm a keystone species here in my environment. I have a natural responsibility for all the species that exist there.

Kiran: Tyson Yunkaporta once said, 'Land without humans is sick land'. Linked to Alice's point, as a keystone species, we see our place where we belong through custodianship.

It's not for short-term gain. It's about creating the conditions for life over a long period of time in a sustainable and regenerative way. It's deeply embedded in First Nations culture and practices.

Can you share some examples of regenerative consumption practices?

Alice: Local sourcing requires us to think about relationships within a place. To be regenerative, we have to consider our bioregions, and to understand the ecological qualities of a particular area.

Kiran: First Nations people do that through deeply understanding rhythms in nature. The climate, topography, and hydrological cycles can inform how we produce, consume and dispose of in a specific place. Fab City in Barcelona is an interesting example as it relocates production to the city and its bioregional context.

Alice: Uncle Bruce Pascoe is a leader in regenerative practices. He's been working on creating new food production practices with traditional grains, and reviving cultural practices in his place, with his mob.

Kiran: Narara EcoVillage on the Central Coast is also a very exciting example. It builds community in a connected way to local ecologies. They all work together to produce their food, collect water and generate energy.

Alice: On a commercial scale, Brickworks Shopping Centre in Victoria is a great example built on regenerative principles.

Regarding regenerative consumption, where are we at? How long does it take us to get there?

Alice: We're at the very beginning, and it'll take time to become mainstream. I'm hopeful as I've seen many innovators leading this change. They're showing what's possible in business, but also at a policy and law reform level. We can all do our part and extend our regenerative circle.

Kiran: I agree with Alice. We're right at the start of a shift. Cultural worldview, governmental policy, infrastructure shifts and social practices – there are so many aspects to undertake this transition.

We have many reasons for hope, but unpredictable factors could also affect the transition. A transition is yet to be guaranteed, but a shift is definitely happening, whether by transition or collapse.

We can continue to create space for the work. The most radical thing we can do now is to come together and build the relationships we've discussed. We need to be bold and courageous in our actions, but patient with the results. And we need to live up to those values.

The more we can build bold relationships and courage, the more change we can create. It becomes its own energy.

Regen Sydney: www.regen.sydney
Alice Howard-Vyse: humanisethis.com.au
Kiran Kashyap: www.kirankashyap.com

Connect with Alice: Linkedin
Connect with Kiran: Linkedin


This interview is part of ReCo Circular Sydney 2023 Series, supported by the City of Sydney Knowledge Exchange Sponsorship program. Explore more free content at: reco.net.au/circular-sydney

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Author

Interviewed by Danling Xiao. Edited by Zoe Duc.

Zoe Duc is a passionate environmental writer who graduates from a master’s degree of journalism and communication at UNSW. Connect with Zoe on Linkedin.

Danling is the co-founder of ReCo and creative director of reco.digital. Danling has an unwavering passion for creativity, spirituality and the pursuit of positive change in the world. Connect with Danling on Linkedin.

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