Explainer: What Is Regenerative Living?

Regenerative Living

At Wild Elements, we’re building an optimist’s guide to regenerative living… but if you’ve never heard the term “regenerative living” before, let us explain. 

We started talking about “regenerative living” because, for us, “sustainable living” wasn’t enough. We don’t want to sustain the current status quo of our planet; we want to leave our world better than we found it. For that, we can’t just sustain. We have to regenerate.

Regenerative living doesn’t keep things the same—it creates a cycle of rebirth that makes the planet and all living things more resilient. Regeneration promotes biodiversity by giving every piece of the ecosystem the fuel and function needed to flourish. And regeneration is what we’re really aiming for when it comes to changing the world, and changing ourselves, for the better.

Here’s what that looks like in real life:

Regenerative Food

Modern farming strips soil of its natural nutrients. That makes it harder to grow food, harder to get nutrient-dense food, and harder to support the ecosystems (the local plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria) living on the ground.
With regenerative agriculture, the soil itself is fed and nourished with compost, clean water, and natural enzymes. This keeps the ground fertile for planting, and gives the soil a chance to recover after producing flowers, plants, and trees. (Which is a lot of work!) 

How can you help regenerative agriculture? By buying local produce from small farms whenever possible, and making a commitment to support organic farms if it’s in your budget. That’s because organic soil consistently shows higher levels of nitrogen, carbon and organic matter, which is better for your food and for the earth. Want to keep costs down and get more involved on a personal level? Consider growing your own herbs and veggies in a regular or hydroponic garden, and composting your food waste to help nourish the soil without spending any cash!

Regenerative Style

“Sustainable” fashion is great, but what happens when we take it to the next level? Then it’s regenerative style. The concept encourages designers, manufacturers, and people who buy clothes (that’s us!) to think about how a pair of jeans or a t-shirt can make the planet better. 

Examples of regenerative style include “upcycling”—the process of taking one piece of clothing and turning it into something new (i.e. two t-shirts sewn together to make a dress, or a quilt becoming a jacket), or turning found ocean plastic into jewelry, kitchenware, or even puffer jacket filling. This can also happen with what's labeled as "sustainable furniture," where driftwood or abandoned oil canisters become chairs and tables. (Surprise! It's actually regenerative, not sustainable.)

Of course, regenerative style also includes re-wearing what you’ve already got in your closet, investing in pieces you know will last, and supporting brands that treat their workers with respect and fair pay. After all, supporting other people is as key to regeneration as supporting the planet.

Regenerative Wellness

Personal and planetary health are the same thing, and you don’t have to choose between loving the natural world and loving your skincare, exercise, and creative pursuits. Instead, consider how to connect what nourishes you and what nourishes the planet. That might mean trading some workout classes for outdoor hikes or swims to plug back into nature, doing a little more research to find face creams whose ingredients are as impressive as their results, and bringing your own reusable water bottle to concerts and vacation hubs instead of buying plastic ones when you get there.

Regenerative Attitude

To quote the great Dolly Parton, “if you want the rainbow, you’ve gotta put up with the rain.” Just like nature, our moods are cyclical (and sometimes stormy). If you feel stuck or tired, remember to regenerate yourself with kindness, nourishment, rest, and a jolt of something you love, whether it’s a frozen raspberry or a TikTok dance you’ve secretly nailed. 

Want more tips for plugging back into nature, and yourself? Sign up for our newsletter, a weekly (and very cool) guide to regenerative living, one step at a time.