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Learn from Nature

Ask “how might nature solve this problem?” for your design challenge. Learn how biological systems can help inspire new solutions for your product or service that are inherently more circular and holistic.

In short, biomimicry is the design of products and systems that are inspired by and modelled on existing biological processes, which have feedback built in. Looking outside of your industry is a great way to inspire the development of your own ideas, and looking to nature is one way to do this. As Janine Benyus stated, “living systems have had 3.8 billion years of R&D.”

STEPS

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Start by writing down your design challenge.

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Identify the function that your product or service is trying to solve. Just write down the function, don’t try to solve it quite yet (e.g.: “My product needs to keep food safe in transit” or “My product needs to keep people warm”).

3

Take one function and brainstorm all the ways that nature might solve this problem. Try to brainstorm as many ideas as you can think of (in the case of keeping food safe, you might say things like, “Peels that biodegrade,” “Keeping fruit in trees until it’s ready to be picked,” or “Shells to protect nuts”). You can use Ask Nature as a resource for this.

4

When you feel like you’ve come up with an exhaustive list, take one example and see if you can use it to create guidelines for your own product or service. (Keeping with the packaging example, you might list things like, “The packaging biodegrades after use” or “The packaging is highly durable,” etc.)

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WHO'S DOING IT WELL

Growing alternatives to petroleum-based packaging

This innovative biomaterials company created mushroom-based protective packaging products like Myco-foam to replace plastic foams such as Styrofoam.

Read more >>

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The Circular Design Guide is a collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO. To give your feedback, email us directly or join our linkedin group.

Copyright © Ellen MacArthur Foundation + IDEO 2017.