Learning from Nature

In the clean up of the information on my computer (more about that in my next post!), I was going through old emails recently, and found several references to biomimicry, which means copying or taking inspiration from natural processes to solve human challenges.  It is such a cool concept, and it is one very effective way in which some companies are investing in nature.  I have used examples of biomimicry in past presentations about ecosystem services, and the unexpected values of nature.

The classic example is the creation of the Velcro hook-and-loop fastener.  The story goes that a Swiss engineer was concerned about seeds of meadow plants sticking to the fur of his dog.  He tried to analyse why the seeds were so tightly stuck to the hairs of the dog, and realised that the little hairs with hooks on the seed acted as anchors.  He replicated the action in the laboratory, and realised that this was a cheap and very efficient way of fastening two sides of material.


Tiny hooks on the surface of this seed.  Photo by Zephyris

Janine Benyus popularized the term “biomimicry” in 1997, with her book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature (1997).  She has now created Biomimicry 3.8, a hybrid social enterprise comprised of a consulting company and a not-for-profit corporation under a single brand and integrated management strategy.

Biomimicry 3.8 has lots of interesting information.  One of the most exciting parts of their website is www.asknature.org/ where I found lots of new and innovative ideas inspired by nature.


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