Intelligent design

God’s creation is one of the best R&D labs we know. Using technology to emulate nature has resulted in revolutionary innovations that make our lives easier, healthier, and more sustainable: from phones, whose loudspeakers were inspired by human eardrums, to entirely new approaches of creating color inspired by the color-shifting properties of a butterfly’s wings. Called biomimicry, there’s potential for replicating nature’s intelligence to produce packaging that decomposes and is not harmful to the environment.

According to the newly formed conglomerate Biomimicry 3.8, the biomimicry field has changed at a stunning pace over recent years. Biomimicry provides a strategy for practical applications that emulate years of brilliant designs. From durable but biodegradable packaging such as sea beans, large bean pods that ripen to become woody and heavy, or the coconut palm, which dispatches its seed inside a hard shell that contains everything it needs to survive, many of nature’s containers can serve as inspiration for the future’s innovative packaging ideas.

Think of the possibilities if technology of a pelican pouch that scoops three gallons of seawater then returns to shape could be mimicked. A flexible bottle design that fills up like a balloon only to collapse when emptied would provide options for consumers on the go or for easily returning containers for recycling hundreds at a time.

What if we could store precious liquids in a cellular matrix like fruits and vegetables, which are often times more than 90% water but don’t slosh because it’s stored between cells. Or, if we could use a cellular matrix for the skin of a bottle; once emptied it could be eaten like an orange slice or dissolve in the bath tub instead of a landfill.

Nature is filled with wonders that tote, store and protect its treasures from a treacherous world. If we take the time to seek sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns, we can learn from nature that has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with.

Read more about packaging innovation in the December 2011 issue of GCI magazine.

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