Of burrs, beaks and big checks

Reprinted from Circular Weekly Newsletter

When it comes to scaling circular solutions, many point to the value of reviving old models, like Loop, which harkens back to the era of milkmen with its reusable packaging platform, or Renewal Workshop, which repairs worn clothes, as we did in the “olden days.” While many are reflecting on the past century for inspiration to help solve for circularity, some are looking back even farther — like, billions of years ago — for proven approaches to complex problems.

Biomimicry recognizes that over the past 3.8 billion years, the earth’s species have evolved with efficiency and elegance, creating a perfectly circular system without waste or non-renewable inputs. If designers can mimic nature’s approach to just about everything, from water-repellency to climate control, they can create products that are better for their users and for the planet.

Although an ancient tool in a designer's arsenal, biomimicry is slowly gaining more recognition. Just this week, Joel Makower inducted Janine Benyus, who wrote the 1997 bestseller, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, into the International Society of Sustainability Professionals Hall of Fame, which recognized Benyus' legacy of bringing biomimicry “from a meme to a movement."

The few iconic — and often cited — examples of biomimetic design at scale, like burrs from burdock plants inspiring the innovation of Velcro, or a kingfisher’s beak informing Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train’s design, are captivating enough to bear repeating. But it’s amazing how little the conversation inside companies has changed since Benyus began writing about the power of biomimetic design more than 20 years ago.

To bring more proof points to market and solutions to scale, Biomimicry Institute is seeking startups that have created products, services or technologies inspired by nature to be considered for the 2020 Ray of Hope Prize, a  $100,000 equity-free prize competition that provides participants funding to accelerate their path to commercial success.

I’m pleased to announce that for the second year in a row, the Ray of Hope Prize finalists will pitch their nature-inspired solutions at Circularity 20 (May 18-20 in Atlanta, GA), with the winner featured on stage, jumbo check and all. I encourage innovators to apply today.

Fare warning: GreenBiz 20 Fall Rates expire December 20 —  register now to get 20 percent off On-Site Rates. The conference will have a track dedicated to the circular economy, with hands-on sessions on setting and achieving packaging goals, cutting food waste on your corporate campus, working with competitors to solve systemic challenges, and more. As a newsletter subscriber, you can get an extra 15 percent off by using the code GB20NL when you register. I hope you’ll join me in sunny Phoenix this February.