Connect with nature in our cities | Sustainable Coastlines

Regenerative practice

A connection to nature can be as simple as appreciating the tree by the roadside. But to fully appreciate our connection to nature, we can look at what nature gives us and what we give back in return. For most urban environments, this relationship can look a little like a one-way street.

That’s where regenerative practices in our urban environments come in. ‘Regenerative’ means to improve rather than merely sustain, so regenerative practices are those that give more than they take.

We thought we would connect you with some of the ways in which our urban environments can live more harmoniously with nature, using our friends at For The Love of Bees and our very own Flagship Education Centre (a contender for the Living Building Challenge) as examples.

Key regenerative practices to implement in our cities


Nature provides us with various ways of powering our buildings and infrastructure. As we know, some of these ways are more damaging than others. That’s why The Flagship uses solar power — we aim to generate 105 percent of our energy needs. That way, we’re not only powering ourselves, but also contributing environmentally friendly power back to the grid.


Nature provides us with fresh water and too often we repay it with polluted water. At The Flagship, we collect and filter rainwater for drinking. And rather than giving back dirty water, we treat it on site in the same way nature treats water, through a wetland! Our above-ground wetland sends water back into the municipal system with as little contamination as possible. 

We also have fantastic composting toilets to treat our black water on site.

LYC--Flagship-6-3-17--High-res49 copy


New buildings can put a lot of strain on nature in the demand for new resources and through the creation of construction waste. One regenerative practice is ‘recycling’ land and buildings.

Eighty-five percent of the materials used in The Flagship are recycled. Used shipping containers make up the main structure and we reverse-engineered the design around specific beams, giving old steel a new life.

While it opened in 2017, most of The Flagship’s core structure is more than 60 years old! It also occupies a space that was once 18 car parks.


Connecting people

Part of being regenerative is to foster harmony in our urban spaces and inspire people to look after our natural world. 

At The Flagship, an abundance of plants and natural materials make it a beautiful place to occupy. We are also located on reclaimed land that was once ocean, so through our educational signage, we aim to reconnect people to the area’s origins. 

Through their many projects, workshops, community gardens, and collaborations with local businesses and groups, For the Love of Bees do an amazing job at connecting people with nature itself and solutions to some of the problems it’s facing.

Food waste

Composting your food waste is a fantastic regenerative practice. What could have been releasing harmful methane in landfill is turned into an invaluable resource for growing food.

As an awesome example of making a regenerative practice more accessible, For the Love of Bees set up a ‘community composting hub’ for use by the Wynyard Quarter restaurants, one of many they have set up. This type of community engagement and outreach is what can make regenerative practices widespread.

Growing food

Making use of our urban spaces to grow food is a great way to reduce the impact of the supply chain on nature. Store-bought food involves packaging and multiple means of transportation, so growing locally can skip all that.

For the Love of Bees have a goal to have an urban farm every 1km. They have several already, which follow regenerative agriculture techniques — see the video below for an explanation of what regenerative agriculture involves.

How can I get involved?

  • If you’re building or renovating, consider what practices you can use to make your new build as nature friendly as possible. Visit us down at The Flagship for inspiration if you’re nearby! Visit us down at The Flagship for inspiration if you’re nearby! Check out the companies that helped us out in our build at the bottom of this page.
  • Most of the practices listed above are best done as a community, so get together with your local community group or community garden. 
  • Spread awareness of and support groups and businesses that aim for regenerative goals. 
  • Plant a garden! Even if you only grow a fraction of your own food to start with. Community gardens will often have workshops to help you get started.

Learn more

The film 2040 looks towards a positive future with regenerative solutions that improve the wellbeing of the planet, all people and all living systems. Watch the trailer below.

The Living Building Challenge asks the question, what if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place? The challenge sets building standards in seven categories: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty.

This Guardian article looks at  regenerative urban development as a prerequisite for the future of cities. “The solution lies in thinking beyond the vague and rather unambitious notion of sustainability and, instead, actively working towards regenerating soils, forests and watercourses. The aim is to improve rather than merely sustain their currently degraded condition.”

To learn about regenerative practice in a rural environment, take a look at New Zealand Geographic’s article on regenerative agriculture. It looks at different ways farmers are adopting regenerative practices here in Aotearoa.