In a Word: Biomimicry


bio·​mim·​ic·​ry ¦bī-(ˌ)ō-¦mi-mi-krē, noun: the imitation of natural biological designs or processes in engineering or invention: biomimetics.

“We are surrounded by geniuses,” says Janine Benyus, co-founder of The Biomimicry Institute. She isn’t referring to the billionaires in our midst, set on shooting us all to the stars, but rather the natural world around us, geniuses all, who work within a beautifully balanced system.

Biomimicry, according to Benyus, is the practice of noticing how nature solves problems and then applying that design to innovations all around us. We already see biomimicry in products all around us. Your down-filled coat (have you ever seen a cold goose?), the Velcro fastener (look no further than the burrs attached to your hiking pants). The shape of wind turbines are modeled after the ridges of a whale’s pectoral fins, which create an aerodynamic flow. Shatterproof glass took its inspiration from spider webs. 

In her seminal book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Benyus summarizes fundamental observations of the natural world:

  • Nature runs on sunlight.
  • Nature uses only the energy it needs.
  • Nature fits form to function.
  • Nature recycles everything.
  • Nature rewards cooperation.
  • Nature banks on diversity.
  • Nature demands local expertise.
  • Nature curbs excesses from within.
  • Nature taps the power of limits.

Benyus has never forgotten the lessons she learned as a young child exploring the wild spaces near her home. She was awed then and she remains so. Biomimicry. It’s as simple as paying attention to those geniuses around us, and taking instruction from them.

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Leslie Garrett
Leslie Garrett
Leslie Garrett is a journalist and the Editorial Director of Bluedot, Inc. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, and more. She is the author of more than 15 books, including The Virtuous Consumer, a book on living more sustainably. Leslie lives most of the year in Canada with her husband, three children, three dogs and three cats. She is building a home on Martha's Vineyard.
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