I love nature, not only because it is beautiful but because it has figured out how to create some of the most powerful and sustainable systems on the planet. If we want to figure out how to do something we just need to ask ourselves a simple question “How do they do it in nature” and then keep looking until we rediscover the technology.
Janine Benyus has dedicated herself to the incredible world of biomimicry which is where we use what we learn from nature in order to create some incredibly sustainable technologies. These technologies are then integrated into our world to help build better systems that work with nature instead of against it.
“Learning about the natural world is one thing, learning from the natural world is another.” – Janine Benyus
According to Janine Benyus’s presentation, there are 2 things that we need to ask ourselves in order to learn from the world around us.
How does Nature Make Things?
Normally when we make things we heat up materials and shape them into the products we use today. This has a 96% waste output and only 4% product output. Nature cannot afford to be that wasteful. So it has found a way to use and reuse 100% of its resources creating the ultimate sustainable system.
After seeing all of these incredible examples in nature I wonder if perhaps we, as humans, are not as technologically advanced as the world around us. Are we living in the dark ages when it comes to making the items we need?
Natural biological systems make everything they need by adding information or structure onto matter in order to give it function perhaps there is a lesson here.
How does life make ‘things’ Disappear into Structure?
Does nature pile up its waste into a trash bucket and wait for the garbage man to come? Of course not, it has a plan for that designed into the system. Nature has other life forms that use the “waste” from one system in order to build up another. For example, the excess fruit that falls from a tree nourishes the soil, organisms and animals around it while also growing a new tree. In this way, everything works together to create and sustain life.
12 Sustainable Design Ideas from Nature
1. Self Assembly– Nanotechnology.
2. CO2 as a Feed Stock– You can make biodegradable plastic out of CO2 which would solve many of the issues with pollution today.
3. Solar Transformations– We can greatly enhance our solar technology by getting it to the efficiency of plants thereby phasing out the need for biofuels.
4. The Power of Shape– We can mimic nature to redesign our cars, planes and boats. This could make it easier to sustain ourselves against major storms and travel more efficiently. Another idea is to use shape and design buildings that are self-cleaning with the use of falling rain.
5. Water– Just like many plants and insects we could use technology to pull clean water out of the air or fog.
6. Separation technology– Separating metals and other things the way nature does it.
7. Green Chemistry– What if we could filter and separate without chemical run off which is harmful to our environment.
8. Time Degradation– Packaging could be designed to dissolve naturally on cue to reduce waste all over the world.
9. Healing– What if everything from our cars to our houses healed themselves when they were damaged? What if we could use the technology of other specialties to heal and regenerate our body?
10. Sensing and Responding– Avoiding car accidents like grasshoppers avoid colliding even when there are hundreds of thousands of them in a small area.
11. Growing Fertility– Not just growing food but growing them in a way that generations later the soil and food are even more nutritious. We need to start working on not just feeding ourselves now but how we can feed the whole ecosystem around us as well.
12. Life Creates Conditions Conducive to life-When we create systems we need to think about hundreds of generations into the future when we make decisions. Sustainability for hundreds of generations instead of 2 or 3 will make all the difference.
Nature is truly remarkable and it is obvious that there is a lot we can learn here. Next time you go for a walk or sit outside look at the vast networks of plants and animals to see what you can learn from their incredible design. Then let us know in the comments below what you discovered.