Using Nature as a Design Guide

Janine Benyus, dean of the burgeoning "biomimicry" design movement, helps companies look to the natural world to help take their business green
The nose cone of Japan's 500 Series Shinkansen bullet train is modeled after a kingfisher's beak. Getty Images

Spot the common theme: a bullet train with a distinctly bird-like nose; massive wind turbines whose form was inspired by the shape of whales' fins; ultra-strong, biodegradeable glues developed by analyzing how mussels cling to rocks under water. The creators of each product used nature as their guide. In the past 10 years the practice, known as biomimicry, has yielded a variety of compelling, quirky, and elegant innovations across industries. And as consumers and companies alike find themselves grappling with ever-larger ecological footprints, the design method is taking its place as a core sustainability strategy.

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