Working toward a world without plastic waste

Expanding the circular design ideation process through biomimicry

It’s estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

This is one of many haunting statistics that makes clear the fact that plastic and packaging waste is a pressing global challenge that won’t be solved without unprecedented innovation and collaboration across industries.

That’s why it’s exciting to share a new Biomimicry + Packaging Innovation Toolkit made available to the public by Biomimicry 3.8. Developed in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 (CE100) Collaborative Project initiative, the toolkit is a resource that brings people together, then guides players through a brainstorming process that helps them gain experience in generating sustainable packaging innovation ideas from nature.

“We needed to create opportunities for people to experience what it’s like to generate ideas from nature, even when we couldn’t be there in person,” Biomimicry 3.8 co-founder Dr. Dayna Baumeister told Sustainable Brands reporter Nithin Coca during a June workshop where the toolkit made its debut.

Image: Biomimicry 3.8

During the workshop, teams were given toolkit concept boards, brainstorming sheets, and Nature’s Technology Summary cards from the Biomimicry Brainstorming-in-a-Box card deck, which includes biological strategies from mentor organisms with high relevance to the packaging realm. Riffler cards then help spark ideas by proposing a host of solution concepts the biological strategies could yield.

“The ideas that teams came up with in three hours were remarkably innovative,” Coca wrote. “Some were the practical – mimicking the leaf stomata, for example, through the design of new packaging that would automatically regulate airflow – to maintain ideal moisture to increase storage shelf-life.”

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s CE100 program allows members to work together in a pre-competitive space so they can tackle big problems like plastic packaging waste and “realise their circular economy ambitions faster.”

Drawing from an impressive CE100 list, Collaborative Projects (Co.Projects) bring together member teams to collaborate on a focused challenge. Workshops are held twice a year so teams and challenges can be brainstormed and set.

Discover more insights from the CE100, from the likes of Dell, Renault, Arup, Royal BAM, eBay and HP

This Co.Project – a collaboration of Biomimicry 3.8 and CE100 members Dell and Heineken – aimed to develop a toolkit to support individuals or teams across all industries as they work to better meet circular design goals for packaging. A team from the Biomimicry 3.8 staff spearheaded the project, eventually creating this toolkit that helps drive circular design ideation process through biomimicry.

The Co.Project was completed in March and made available to all CE100 members.

Now, the free, downloadable version is available to the public. It includes a PDF copy of the Biomimicry Brainstorming-in-a-Box card deck, a concept board worksheet, a brainstorm map, a Read Me First content overview, an intro video, and facilitator instructions.

A CE100 project report on the project noted that the “gamification” of the biomimicry brainstorming process has helped users expand thinking. The report said that users found it to be an “effective employee engagement tool” and that after a one hour session led by biomimicry professionals, “companies were able to identify strategies to take back to their R&D teams.”

For more biomimicry innovation inspiration, visit Synapse by Biomimicry 3.8


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The Author

Jenna Cederberg

Jenna Cederberg

Jenna Cederberg is a former journalist and editor who now works to tell the story of biomimicry through compelling content as the Marketing and Communication Specialist for Biomimicry 3.8. B3.8, based in Missoula, MT, USA, is the world's leading bio-inspired consultancy offering biological intelligence consulting, professional training, and inspiration.

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