In class, we watched the following TED talk by Janine Benyus about Biomimicry:
Janine Benyus is dubbed as the “pioneer of biomimicry” since she was the key figure in starting the current biomimicry movement. It isn’t that biomimicry didn’t exist before, it just wasn’t a way of thinking for people to solve problems. Janine and her team of researchers have been sharing their findings through Biomimicry 3.8 as well as Ask Nature, an open source collaboration of findings that is now a search engine. As a result, innovators are now looking to nature for answers to complex questions.
Case Study – Interface
Interface creates modular carpet tiles with a cradle-to-cradle business model. They take back their carpet when it has reached the end of its life cycle and gets made into new carpet. Their Mission Zero is to eliminate all negative environmental impact by 2020. Currently, four of seven Interface factories are operating with 100% renewable electricity (source).
We had a guest speaker from Interface come in to give a presentation on sustainable business and how to spec sustainable products to customers.
After the Interface presentation, I realized Interface’s success is a result of using biomimicry. In nature, all the organisms work as a system to function because they all depend on one another to thrive. When businesses operate with the principles of nature, they head towards a zero waste, sustainable growth, and a interconnected network of customers, suppliers, and manufacturers.
In order to reach their Mission Zero, Interface needs to replace their materials with renewable materials or materials that are being thrown into landfills. One material they have replaced so far is the pre-coat. They replaced it with PVB, a polymer use in car windows. There is estimated to be over 1 million metric tonnes of PVB available for recycling. By keeping this substance out of landfills and into carpet that can be recycled over an over again, there are economic and environmental benefits; it’s a win-win for everyone in the Interface system, including the environment.
Interface is an example, not an exception. More and more companies are realizing that being “sustainable” doesn’t mean an increase in costs or a reduction in quality.