“Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature. In a society accustomed to dominating or ‘improving’ nature, this respectful imitation is a radically new approach, a revolution really. Unlike the Industrial Revolution, the Biomimicry Revolution introduces an era based not on what we can extract from nature, but on what we can learn from her.” — Janine Benyus, American natural sciences writer, innovation consultant, and author
Finding sustainable solutions for a balanced ecosystem by empowering people to learn and apply nature-inspired design strategies is the philosophy that lies at the heart of biomimicry and is absolutely critical in effecting systemic change.
Biomimicry design thinking is a process used by innovators across many fields to identify challenges and develop solutions in a creative way — based on nature. The typical process consists of five stages:
Biomimicry moves away from an industry-informed perspective (i.e. what has been manufactured before) to a nature-informed perspective, studying and copying how nature has solved problems to take full advantage of 3.8 billion years of ‘R&D’ and natural selection. Creative problem-solving tools are invaluable in the face of the climate crisis, as we must look towards the age-old design of nature itself to learn how to adapt to and mitigate devastating impacts.
Many inventions we take for granted today are a product of biomimicry. For example, Velcro was invented by George de Mestral in the 1940s when he examined the way burrs attached to his clothing with a unique hook design. We study the golden orb-weaver spider (Nephila clavipes) for its unbelievable ability to produce silk that is five times stronger than steel, a naturally-derived arachnoid material much tougher than the Kevlar in bulletproof vests and able to absorb five times the impact without breaking — or the need for high pressures, heat or corrosive acids.
Surrounding ourselves with nature reduces stress and increases creativity, allowing us to operate at our highest potential. The more we incorporate nature into our constructed places — even through simple green building design shifts to increase daylight or views of the outdoors — the stronger our connection is to the environment, incentivizing its protection and restoration. It becomes a co-beneficial cycle!
As human beings, we are innately tied to the natural world. Our fast-paced, tech-focused society can cause us to separate from the ecosystems that surround us, but we are innately drawn to nature, our greatest teacher.
“After 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival… In that time, life has learned to fly, circumnavigate the globe, live in the depths of the ocean and atop the highest peaks, craft miracle materials, light up the night, lasso the sun’s energy, and build a self-reflective brain… [all] without guzzling fossil fuel, polluting the planet, or mortgaging the future. What better models could there be?” Janine Benyus sums it up so well in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.
Whether we deliberately imitate nature’s best strategies or are simply influenced by the ecosystems around us, what we build often mimics biology. Biomimicry is all around us!
Here are examples of integrated biomimicry from our partners at the Biomimicry Institute.
Take two photos of biomimicry in action and write a caption explaining each. Post your photos on Instagram and tag @TurningGreenOrg and @BiomimicryInstitute with #PGC2020 and #BiomimicryChallenge.
Upload a PDF Document with your two photos, caption about each photo and a screenshot of your social media post. You must include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school on the pdf.
“In nature, nothing is perfect and yet everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” – Alice Walker, an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and social activist.
Today, you have an opportunity to see, hear, feel and experience how the natural world is moving around you. Will you lean in? Reconnection with nature is where it starts.
Biomimicry Institute defines (re)connection as a practice that reminds us to observe and spend time in nature to understand how life works and encourages innovators to think about how personal connection to nature informs work. Reconnection feeds empathy, the ability to understand and relate to the feelings of another.
As youth climate activists, we believe empathy is essential for understanding and solving environmental problems, yet modern society has lost much empathy for living creatures and our Earth.
Spend time in nature, to listen, learn and share. We invite you to find 20 or 30 minutes to be outside in a natural environment, a nearby park, a trail hike, even a porch or backyard, anywhere. Find a place where you feel connected to the biological world.
Close your eyes. Place your hands on your knees, palms up. Align your spine, so you sit up straight. Take a deep inhale and long exhale. Center on breath, noticing the rise and fall of your chest. Now try to focus on only one sense at a time (sight, sound, touch, feel, taste) and feel what comes through. Are there birds chirping? How does the earth feel beneath you? Can you smell the flora around you? Open your eyes. What patterns are the plants making with light and shadows? If your mind wanders, that’s okay; acknowledge the circulating thoughts and let them be. Re-center. How does your body feel in this natural environment? What do you learn from observing nature around you? Take one more deep breath. Pause in gratitude for the environment that surrounds you.
Create a representation of your main takeaways from this experience, either a journal entry or a drawing. What does reconnection mean to you now? Has this experience reshaped how you may reconnect to nature in daily life? What did you learn? Was there a detail, shape or idea in the natural environment that inspired? What emotions or colors sum up this experience?
Post a visual and takeaways you wish to share from the experience on Instagram with a caption about how you’ve reconnected in a new way to self, the natural world and process of biomimicry. Be sure to tag @TurningGreenOrg in the photo, as well as @BiomimicryInstitute and use #PGC2020.
Upload a PDF Document with your reflection, drawing, caption and a screenshot of your social media post. You must include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school on the pdf.
Nature has designed complex structures for efficiency all around us. Plants, animals and other organisms are alive today because of adaptation, mutation and shifts. Pay attention to their teachings!
“If the history of life on Earth were put to a 24‑hour clock, humans would have been here shaping the world for mere seconds. As latecomers, it’s time to begin asking the rest of our complex planetary family how to build a more resilient, regenerative, and beautiful world.” — Ask Nature
Time to get inspired! Explore the Biomimicry Institute AskNature online library of over 1,800 natural phenomena and bio-inspired applications. Explore the Inspired Ideas, Biological Strategies and Collections tabs at the bottom of the page.
Select one design or biological mechanism that is particularly interesting.
Upload a PDF Document with your reflection answering the questions above. You must include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school on the pdf.
Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.
A Peak Design Wash Pouch with many pockets and sections to carry everything you need, filled with an assortment of organic samples from PGC partners. Peak Design is a certified B Corp and donates 1% to environmental non-profits.
A Peak Design backpack is super functional whether for school, traveling or camping. Peak Design is a certified B Corp and donates 1% to environmental non-profits.