How nature can help us redefine the good life

Thanks to biomimicry, it doesn’t have to be a daunting task

In nature, the ultimate success for any organism is the protection of the future generation of that species. To achieve that success, the organism must create conditions for a “good life”by taking care of its place.

Nature is generous and provides resources for the inhabitants of an ecosystem, which then supports and feeds back into the source. In short: Fostering environments that spur growth and creating a good life for all is essential.

At Biomimicry 3.8, “redefining the good life” means borrowing from these lessons from nature so we can innovate in a way that not only solves the today’s pressing social and environmental challenges, but creates conditions for long-term success.

Harnessing nature’s technologies can help us create products, systems, and teams that can effectively balance resource flows, eliminate the concept of waste, and create inherently sustainable companies.

Take, for instance, the problem of packaging. An essential component that touches almost every sector and product in our world, packaging is a massive part of our economy in desperate need of sustainable solutions.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s 2015 New Plastics Economy report estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic from wayward packaging in the ocean than fish (by weight). The report also found that by 2050 plastics will account for 20 percent of the world’s oil consumption and for 15 percent of the global annual carbon budget.

The good news? Nature has already solved every packaging challenge we can imagine. And because organisms take care of their place, nature’s packaging is self assembled, made with renewable sources, and produces no waste.

Companies across a wide swath of sectors have used biomimicry to create sustainable, systems-level solutions to help redefine how packaging is done.

Biomimicry 3.8 led an interdisciplinary team of designers through a research process to help the global cosmetics company Natura build a structured methodology for the application of biomimicry to develop better packaging solutions. Our biological research showed different ways liquids and solids are contained in nature, including inspirations like poppy flower buds and beetle wings. Poppy buds, for example, include sepals that split open and detach after its petals unfurl, deploying seeds within minutes.

Thanks to biomimicry, Natura developed five preliminary packaging concept prototypes, two of which were further developed for large-scale manufacturing. The results enabled the company to reduce it material and logistics cost and satisfy customer needs to get out every. Last. Drop.

To build a 100% recyclable, stronger water bottle with less plastic, designers looked to the spiral growth principle of the fibers of Whitebark pines. A team from the Logoplaste Innovation Lab mimicked macro and micro helical structures of the trunk to design a lighter, more durable bottle.

The inspiration led to a new bottle design for Vitalis, a Portugal-based water brand.

The bottle is the lightest polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle on the market, and reduces total raw material use by 7%, enabling savings of 250 tons of raw material per year, while maintaining the structural integrity in transport.

Or what if we looked to the scarab beetle to help eliminate bleach from our packaging processes?

The Cyphochilus beetles that live among white fungi are camouflaged thanks to unique scales that scatter all wavelengths of visible light, leaving behind only a brilliant broadband white. Their secret lies inside the ultra thin scales covering their body. Within each scale’s mere 5 μm thickness is a random network of loosely interconnecting tubular filaments with diameters of about 0.25 μm. Incoming light is bounced around within the scales, effectively diffusing and scattering it.

With this arrangement, only an ultra thin layer is necessary to scatter all incoming visible light and create brilliant white.

These are just a few quick snapshots of how innovation inspired by nature has solved some tough packaging challenges that can drive new opportunities.

Thanks to all these mentors, redefining the good life doesn’t have to be a daunting task. All you have to do is ask, how would nature…?

Nicole Miller will present Harnessing Nature’s Technology: The Biomimicry Toolkit at Sustainable Brands ’17 Detroit on Monday, May 22, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Join her and connect with 2,000+ brand and sustainability leaders in Detroit for a collective conversation about how brands can position themselves for success against the backdrop of changing societal needs!

Nicole Miller
Managing Director
Biomimicry 3.8
May 10, 2017

Share this with your network

Send this to friend