Biomimicry: A Key Driver to Achieving a Circular Economy

The concept of a circular economy is being embraced by business leaders, environmentalists and scientists around the world.  As your partner for sustainable print communications, EarthColor is committed to keeping you in the loop on new concepts, systems and trends that will speed us toward that goal. Biomimicry, a relatively new discipline, has emerged as an important factor to lead us forward.

Simply put, biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature.  By emulating the time-tested strategies and patterns used in the natural world we can develop sustinable solutions that will empower us to create and maintain a regenerative approach to fueling our economy.  According to biologist Janine Benyus, a leader in the field of biomimicry, Mother Nature has already designed the best models for products and processes that can solve current human problems and meet future challenges.  In fact, we’re already putting that knowledge into action.

The very paper we use for printing is arguably the first example of biomimicry.  Although the Egyptians began using papyrus as a writing surface in the third millennium B.C., it was the Chinese who developed the first printing paper in 105 A.D.  Their inspiration came from peeling away the bark of mulberry trees, breaking it into fibers and pounding those fibers into sheets.  They may also have been inspired by observing the way paper wasps build their nests — mixing spit with fibers from dead wood.  Chinese papermakers soon developed ways to make sized, coated and dyed papers, initially using mulberry bark and rags and later de-fibered bamboo fiber.  Over the centuries, paper and papermaking spread westward along the Silk Road to India, the Middle East and Europe.  In 1620, the first papermaking mill opened in the Americas in Germantown, PA.  Pulp made from hemp, rattan, fabric rags and ultimately wood fiber in tandem with the development of industrialized papermaking and printing processes increased the use and demand for paper.

Today, examples of nature inspiring technology and innovation abound across many disciplines.

  • The airplane was thought of by Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th century while observing the anatomy and flight of birds and bats. Da Vinci produced accurate sketches for elementary flying machines including the earliest version of the helicopter.
  • The nose of Japan’s high-speed Shinkansen bullet train was re-designed to emulate the beak of the Kingfisher to minimize the amount of air pressure creating a sonic boom whenever the train emerged from a tunnel. The result was a quieter train that went 10 percent faster on 15 percent less electricity.
  • Scientists have found a way to protect against bacteria in hospital settings by studying the slow-moving Galapagos shark. Its skin surface is covered with a microscopic pattern that prevents build-up of barnacles and bacteria.  A company called Sharklet Technologies is now putting similar nano-scale patterns on surfaces used in hospitals to keep bacteria from landing, greatly reducing hospital-acquired infections.
  • The efficiency of wind turbine engines has been greatly increased by adding bumps to the front curve of the blades to simulate the scalloped edges of flippers on humpback whales, which enables them to speed through the ocean.
  • A U.S. concrete company has adapted the CO2 building-block recipe that plants and organisms use to make coral reefs for cement manufacturing. Instead of emitting a ton of CO2 for every ton of cement, they’ve reversed the process, sequestering half a ton of CO2.Nature is a veritable treasure trove of inspiration that we can tap as we transition from a “take, make, waste” linear economy to the more regenerative circular economy model.

To learn more about biomimicry, the circular economy and our commitment to other environmental issues contact EarthColor today.


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