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Embracing the Path of Handprints Toward a Regenerative Future

In a thought-provoking keynote address for the SHINE Material Health Symposium IV, Greg Norris invites us into a transformative conversation about the role of ‘handprints’ in forging a regenerative future. This dialogue underscores a profound shift from merely reducing harm to actively contributing to healing our planet. It challenges us to rethink our impact, not just through the lens of our footprints – the negative repercussions of our actions – but by recognizing and expanding our capacity for positive change.

From Footprints to Handprints: A Paradigm Shift

The prevailing “Do Less Harm” approach to sustainability, while significantly beneficial, has traditionally focused on minimizing negative impacts – our environmental and social footprints. However, as Greg Norris eloquently discusses, this perspective is inherently limited. It carries an underlying message that may inadvertently equate individual and collective existence to burdens on the planet. This outlook not only fosters guilt and helplessness but also overlooks a fundamental truth: we have the potential to be forces of positive change.

The concept of ‘handprints’ emerges as a powerful and hopeful counterbalance. A handprint represents the positive impacts we can create, moving beyond minimizing harm to actively contributing toward healing and regeneration. It shifts the narrative from one of guilt to one of empowerment, encouraging us to give more than we take.

Measurable Change: Handprints in Action

Handprints extend across various domains, including carbon, water, biodiversity, social impacts, and importantly for the Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC), material health. Just as we assess our carbon or water footprints, we can, and should, evaluate our material health footprints. This assessment can then lay the groundwork for developing material health handprints, signifying efforts and achievements in making the built environment not just less harmful, but positively regenerative.

The Ripple Effect of Positive Contributions

One of the profound insights shared by Norris revolves around the potential of amplifying positive contributions through a ripple effect. By adopting and promoting efficiency not as an end in itself but as a means to reinvest savings into further positive actions, we can achieve exponential growth in our handprints. This strategy of paying it forward can radically expand the scope of our impact, demonstrating that sustainability efforts can indeed scale in meaningful and transformative ways.

A Call to Action for the Built Environment

For the HPDC community, Norris’s reflections present a compelling call to action. As stewards of material health within the built environment, we are uniquely positioned to quantify and enhance our material health handprints. It beckons us to ask: how can we, through our choices and advocacy, contribute to a net positive material health impact? How can we engage the broader community in this vision, harnessing the power of collective action for exponential growth in positive outcomes?

Embracing Our Potential for Regeneration

Greg Norris’s keynote does more than articulate a shift from minimizing negative impacts to actively creating positive ones. It invites us into a collective journey toward regeneration, where every individual, organization, and community can be a net positive force for the planet. As we look to the future, let us embrace the potential of our handprints to shape a world where humanity is not merely sustainable but thrives as a regenerative force for good.

In this pivotal moment, the HPDC stands as a beacon, guiding the way toward a future where material health not only minimizes harm but actively contributes to the healing of our planet. Let us take bold steps on this path, together, toward a regenerative future.