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by Owen McComasky

Is Biomimicry the Key to Reducing Emissions in Our Environment?


What is Biomimicry?

You may have already noticed this, but humanity is compromising a system that was already in place to support our presence on this planet. An atmosphere that holds in all the right ingredients for life itself, which also keeps out all the cosmic rays that would otherwise snuff us out of existence.


What if – and feel free to interrupt if this sounds a tad too naive – but what if, instead of exploiting nature for short-term gains, we instead learn from millions of years of evolution to find sustainable and regenerative solutions to support our life on Earth?


Now that people are wising up to the implications of humanity’s impact on climate change (and even if you’re a follower of the 3% of scientists who don’t believe in it, you’re welcome here anyway friend), it’s time to delve into the wonders of nature that could our lives more sustainable. 


This isn’t a new idea. We already have plenty of impressive inventions created through biomimicry, also known as biomimetics. From velcro to shark skin-inspired boat hulls (more on shark skin later), biologists and organisations have been collaborating to increase the productivity and waste created by certain products.


Once you go down this rabbit hole…

…you’ll soon start learning about incredible solutions that nature has provided to some of humanity’s most challenging problems. With 2020 playing out as if it were written by George R. R. Martin and directed by Quentin Tarantino, we could really do with finding some solutions pronto!


Let’s talk more about shark skin, shall we? Sharks have special scales known as dermal denticles. They aid the apex predator in gliding through water without any drag, but dermal denticles provide other benefits too. Organisms such as barnacles cannot get a hold onto them, but neither can microbes.


The US Navy now save $50M/year thanks to biomimicry. By stamping the shape of dermal denticles into the paint of ship hulls, nature has helped save nature; less fuel is consumed by ships and aircraft carriers and the application of toxic anti-barnacle paint which was wreaking havoc on oceans wildlife is no longer needed.


You’d Think Surely We’re Done Discussing Dermal Denticles…

But wait! There’s more. How about mimicking the anti-microbial properties of shark scales to reduce the spread of infectious bacteria in hospitals. Not only are we talking about the coronavirus, but also the superbugs that cause thousands of deaths such as MRSA, Staph infections and many more. Thanks, Sharklet!


Whoa. Look at how one aspect from nature has already helped reduce:

  • Dependence on fossil fuels
  • Poisoning of ocean wildlife
  • The spread of infectious microbes


Imagine combining these technologies with self-cleaning surfaces, inspired by the superhydrophobicity of the lotus plant. You have probably seen the “Lotus Effect” being marketed through those hydrophobic t-shirts or one of Neverwet ads. Tres cool. As we live in a world that is fighting a battle on many fronts, using this technology to coat surfaces and materials will:


  1. Reduce the risk of spreading infectious disease
  2. Create self-cleaning surfaces that no longer require the hefty cleaning products which pollute our water supplies


How Else Can Biomimicry Battle Climate Change?

Think of the plethora of factors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. One of the most damaging greenhouse gases is the organic compound called Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC). Where do you find it? In air conditioning and refrigerating units.


As the standard of living around the world increases, so does the use of AC units and fridges. That cocktail of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon is slowly depleting the ozone layer and “can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) in contributing to climate change per unit of mass”.


So, if there were a biomimetic solution to keeping buildings cool, we’d already have something in place, right? Velcro has been around for decades, so we know nobody has found a decent solution yet…right?


Actually, nope. Biomimicry has already used to design and build a massive office and retail building with a self-regulating heat/cooling system inspired by termite mounds. The Eastgate Centre was built in the early 1990s in Harare, Zimbabwe. The 90% natural climate control system uses up to 35% less energy than similar buildings in the country.


We’ve already mentioned Climate Action Plans in a previous post. We wonder if Copenhagen’s plan to retrofit buildings and use district heating & cooling would be inspired by biomimicry too.


We Could Go On About This All Day

These were just a few examples we’ve fed you in the vast field of biomimicry. If the topic has piqued your interest, check out these other biomimicry solutions you may or may not have already heard of:


Have we missed any important biomimicry solutions worth mentioning? Leave a comment on our Facebook page. Don’t forget to push that “Like” button to follow us and please share our articles too. Reaching zero carbon by 2025 requires all of us to pitch in.


Bonus Facts

Did you know…the Biomimicry Institute is there for you if you wish to learn more about biomimetics finding new solutions to humanity’s challenges that are already embedded in the natural world? They offer free online courses and materials!

Seeing as we love hearing about society coming together to find sustainable solutions, the Global Design Challenge has been a personal favourite of ours. What a way to bring nature-based solutions into the world faster; through education!


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