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Toward a Restorative Economy

A project collection of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This project collection belongs to the section "Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability".

Papers displayed on this page all arise from the same project. Editorial decisions were made independently of project staff and handled by the Editor-in-Chief or qualified Editorial Board members.

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Editor


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Guest Editor
College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES), University of the District of Columbia, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Interests: community based development; urban sustainability; urban food systems; urban agriculture; PAR
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Project Overview

Dear Colleagues,

A restorative economy restores the capacity for the well-being of people and the planet. This kind of economy must not only turn resources into useful goods and services, but also reduce emissions and wastes, as well as strengthen the adsorptive and restorative capacities of the environmental and social context systems that supply resources and receive emission and waste streams in the first place. This kind of economy must have a different conceptual underpinning than the common throughput model, where inputs are converted into useful goods and services and the unfortunate negative externalities of production and consumption disappear from the purview of economics.

Environmental and ecological economists have developed numerous assessment methods and policies to evaluate and internalize the social and environmental externalities of economic activity. Yet, the question of how the economic process itself can be better aligned with the processes of nature has received less attention. As emissions and waste increase and accumulate, they place growing burdens on the environmental and social context systems into which they are released. The result is reduced processing capacities: oceans and forests absorb less CO2; forests release less oxygen; soils absorb less nitrate and phosphate; the loss of permeable surfaces results in less water absorption.

These complex system processes confront us with the fact that we may not only run out of resources to power economic processes, but we may also run out of sink capacities to absorb and process the emissions and waste by-products of economic activity. These lost sink capacities can be environmental as well as social, and include not only oceans and soils, but also human communities and bodies.

This Special Issue seeks examples of a reconceptualized restorative economy, with healthy and thriving restorative sink capacities as well as sustainable resourcing capacities. Submissions can focus on carbon sequestration, ecosystem restoration, reduced stress and better health outcomes in thriving environmental and social context systems.

We seek contributions addressing various strategies that could assist in establishing a restorative economy, including technical solutions, institutional alternatives, behavioral changes, and novel valuation approaches. Both theoretical and practical papers will be considered with the goal of assembling a robust body of works on restorative economics capable of reducing emissions and waste, strengthening environmental and social processing capacities, and sustaining the well-being of people and the planet in the long run.

Prof. Dr. Sabine O’Hara
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the collection website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • restorative economics
  • resourcing capacities
  • sink capacities
  • ecological economics
  • circular economy
  • sustainable development
  • urban sustainability
  • ecosystem services
  • green infrastructure
  • biomimicry

Published Papers (6 papers)

2024

22 pages, 663 KiB  
Article
Building a Restorative Agricultural Economy: Insights from a Case Study in Santa Catarina, Brazil
by Joshua Farley and Abdon Schmitt-Filho
Sustainability 2024, 16(11), 4788; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16114788 - 4 Jun 2024
Viewed by 384
Abstract
Agriculture is the most important economic sector and simultaneously the greatest threat to the ecosystem functions on which all complex life depends. It is therefore a logical starting point for developing a restorative economy. We must develop and disseminate agroecosystems capable of providing [...] Read more.
Agriculture is the most important economic sector and simultaneously the greatest threat to the ecosystem functions on which all complex life depends. It is therefore a logical starting point for developing a restorative economy. We must develop and disseminate agroecosystems capable of providing food security for all, while simultaneously restoring vital ecosystem processes degraded by conventional agriculture. We review 25 years of transdisciplinary work towards this goal on an agroecology project in Santa Rosa de Lima, Santa Catarina, Brazil and distill some key lessons for like-minded efforts. We apply the methods of Participatory Action Research and Post Normal Science to integrate the knowledge, insights and goals of farmers, diverse scientists, agricultural extensionists, and policymakers to design high-biodiversity silvopastoral systems and multi-function riparian forests capable of improving farmer livelihoods, and propose policies to support their adoption by aligning the interests of farmers and society. We explain the science underlying our project and document resulting improvements in farmer livelihoods and ecosystem services. We then examine the socioeconomic obstacles to disseminating our innovations and policies that might overcome them and describe our pragmatic approaches to working with policymakers. We conclude that integrating natural sciences, socio-economic analysis and politics are all necessary yet insufficient to promote the large-scale adoption of restorative agriculture. We contend that building a restorative economy will also require a fundamental extension of humanity’s moral values to the rest of nature, and use evolutionary science to support our views. Rather than offering a recipe for successful projects, our take-home message is that developing a restorative agricultural economy in an ever-evolving system is a continuous participatory process with no endpoint. Full article
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20 pages, 1296 KiB  
Article
Exploring Characteristics of Regenerative Business Models through a Delphi-Inspired Approach
by Linda Drupsteen and Ingrid Wakkee
Sustainability 2024, 16(7), 3062; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16073062 - 7 Apr 2024
Viewed by 1116
Abstract
Amidst escalating environmental and social challenges, this study explores regenerative business models’ definition and characteristics. While sustainable models have made considerable strides in research, policy, and practice, the advent of regenerative business models offers a progressive leap forward. Regenerative business models aspire to [...] Read more.
Amidst escalating environmental and social challenges, this study explores regenerative business models’ definition and characteristics. While sustainable models have made considerable strides in research, policy, and practice, the advent of regenerative business models offers a progressive leap forward. Regenerative business models aspire to contribute to ecological restoration and societal well-being. The regenerative business model concept is, however, still in its infancy and lacks a comprehensive definition. Our study aims to expand this knowledge, using a Delphi-inspired approach that builds on the knowledge of academic and business experts. Our approach includes three rounds of surveys: an open-ended survey, a survey for rating and ranking the earlier responses of all participants, and a final survey to select key characteristics. We investigate patterns and distinctions among regenerative, regenerative business, and regenerative business models, and analyze their positioning vis-a-vis circular and net-positive models. Findings underscore that organizations adopting regenerative business models focus on planetary health and societal well-being. They generate value across multiple stakeholder levels, including nature, societies, customers, suppliers, shareholders, and employees. Despite overlapping with circular and net-positive models, regenerative business models also emphasize interdependencies between humans and nature, and provide a more holistic approach, centered on restoration rather than mere mitigation. Full article
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16 pages, 913 KiB  
Article
Assessing Restorative Community Development Frameworks—A Meso-Level and Micro-Level Integrated Approach
by Midas Hampton, Sabine O’Hara and Elizabeth Gearin
Sustainability 2024, 16(5), 2061; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16052061 - 1 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1291
Abstract
This study critically examines existing frameworks aimed at establishing restorative practices in community development by conducting a comparative analysis of a meso-level development framework called the Five Pillars of Development and a micro-level framework implemented by a grassroots initiative. Both frameworks were implemented [...] Read more.
This study critically examines existing frameworks aimed at establishing restorative practices in community development by conducting a comparative analysis of a meso-level development framework called the Five Pillars of Development and a micro-level framework implemented by a grassroots initiative. Both frameworks were implemented in Washington, DC, and both seek to address the enduring negative externalities disinvested communities face and suggest the need for restorative practices in community development. Restorative development practices trace their roots to the field of restorative economics, which is a subfield of sustainable development. It argues that sustainability must also address the sins of the past and restore systems and systems components that have been negatively impacted by past development practices. This study aims to discern the adaptability of the more broadly applicable meso-level Five Pillars framework in capturing nuanced micro-level frameworks like the one devised by the grassroots organization in Ward 8. By identifying potential gaps, this study proposes strategies to enhance the utility of the more transferable meso-level framework, particularly for communities lacking resources to formulate their own micro-level framework. This study, therefore, contributes valuable insights and recommendations for bridging potential disparities between the meso-level and micro-level frameworks, as demonstrated in the Ward 8 case. The overarching objective is to enrich the community development field by presenting a restorative framework that refines existing meso-level approaches and facilitates opportunities for micro-level applications. Full article
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18 pages, 3311 KiB  
Article
Making Space: A New Way for Community Engagement in the Urban Planning Process
by Elizabeth Gearin and Carletta S. Hurt
Sustainability 2024, 16(5), 2039; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16052039 - 29 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1259
Abstract
The current research shifts from the tradition of researcher-generated and directed community study and explores a new model for data collection based on citizen-directed participation and restorative economies. This is important because the scholarship of urban planning is often separated from the practice, [...] Read more.
The current research shifts from the tradition of researcher-generated and directed community study and explores a new model for data collection based on citizen-directed participation and restorative economies. This is important because the scholarship of urban planning is often separated from the practice, in which scholars undertake the bulk of the academic research and professional planners work in the field, engaging with the community and creating and implementing plans around local issues and opportunities. While urban planning trends support diverse, equitable, and inclusive engagement in visioning and shaping local development, few operationalized examples exist for citizen-led scholarship with local community application. The work outlined herein explicitly partners with local residents to collect data on both community and academic interests, and it also promotes a citizen sense of agency. Community leaders worked with the local public university to design and implement a study to solicit park use ideas and visions among three groups: youth; adults; and returning citizens. Results identify an overall theme of a lack of engagement with the community, relative to other local parks, and they also highlight four common areas of thought between the three populations—concerns about safety among park users, functional use of park space, demand for widespread park access, and desire for natural environment conservation. This work represents a viable local engagement approach including demonstrated investment in a local community and resultant increased trust; also, this work contributes valuable new knowledge about local history and the use of a community resource to inform land use planning and policy around community sustainability. Full article
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22 pages, 668 KiB  
Article
Understanding the Role of Public Transportation in Supporting the Care Economy in Washington, DC, USA
by Dina Passman, Sabine O’Hara and Yolandra Plummer
Sustainability 2024, 16(3), 1288; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16031288 - 2 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1051
Abstract
Women’s empowerment is a powerful engine for personal and societal economic development and well-being. Nevertheless, gender biases in physical infrastructure investments lead to negative consequences for women and children that reduce their empowerment and limit their economic benefits. Public fixed-route buses, such as [...] Read more.
Women’s empowerment is a powerful engine for personal and societal economic development and well-being. Nevertheless, gender biases in physical infrastructure investments lead to negative consequences for women and children that reduce their empowerment and limit their economic benefits. Public fixed-route buses, such as those in Washington, DC, illustrate how physical transportation infrastructure has innate gender biases. These young residents likely depend on strollers to travel longer than a few blocks. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) runs the public transportation system in Washington, DC. In 2021, 7% of DC’s 720,000 residents were under five. WMATA maintains a fleet of approximately 1595 buses, 95% of which banned the onboarding of open strollers until recently. This ban directly limited the use of Metro buses for the caregivers of young children, primarily women. It also reduced the opportunities for these caregivers to participate in DC’s economic life. In neighborhoods dependent on buses for essential mobility, the stroller ban reduces employment, healthcare, social service, educational, and recreational offerings beyond walkable distances. This paper examines the publicly available discussions and actions that led to the updated stroller policy and offers opportunities for improving caregiver transit access in Washington, DC, and, by extension, other cities worldwide. Full article
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21 pages, 4744 KiB  
Article
Investigating the Effect of Living Walls on Cooling Energy Consumption in Various Urban Microclimates, Building Heights, and Greenery Coverage Areas
by Vahid Bakhtyari, Kaveh Fattahi, Khosro Movahed and Anna Franz
Sustainability 2024, 16(2), 920; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16020920 - 22 Jan 2024
Viewed by 997
Abstract
With the aim of addressing the significant contribution of buildings to global energy consumption and the growing need to establish a more harmonious connection between humans and nature in urban environments, the concept of green vertical systems has garnered considerable attention. These systems [...] Read more.
With the aim of addressing the significant contribution of buildings to global energy consumption and the growing need to establish a more harmonious connection between humans and nature in urban environments, the concept of green vertical systems has garnered considerable attention. These systems possess the potential to enhance the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of buildings. This study seeks to explore the impact of living walls on the energy performance of buildings, specifically investigating the influence of a living-walled urban block on the ambient air temperature and its subsequent effect on building energy consumption. By comparing the cooling energy consumption of two typical buildings situated in Shiraz, southern Iran, with varying levels of greenery in different microclimates, we further ascertain the effectiveness of living walls in reducing energy consumption. To conduct this analysis, we employed coupled simulations utilizing EnergyPlus and Envi-met, which incorporated both the outdoor microclimate and the cooling energy consumption of the buildings. The urban block under consideration consisted of 48 three-story buildings (Case A) and five-story buildings (Case B) within a site measuring 120 m × 150 m. Our findings substantiate that the implementation of a living wall system can lower the ambient air temperature by a significant extent, with an average decrease of 1.35 °C and a maximum decrease of 2.25 °C. Consequently, living walls can effectively mitigate the urban heat island phenomenon by decreasing the temperatures of the surrounding buildings. Additionally, our investigations revealed a maximum energy saving of 15%, with microclimate exerting a 4.3% influence on these savings. Full article
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