Janine Benyus is a biologist, innovation consultant, and author of six books, including Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.
In Biomimicry, Benyus explores an emerging discipline that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s designs and processes. “In a biomimetic world,” she writes, “we would manufacture the way animals and plants do, using sun and simple compounds to produce totally biodegradable fibers, ceramics, plastics, and chemicals. Our farms, modeled on prairies, would be self-fertilizing and pest-resistant. To find new drugs or crops, we would consult animals and insects that have used plants for millions of years to keep themselves healthy and nourished.”
Exploring how a gecko clings upside down to a ceiling, she points out, led to the discovery of the first glue-free carpet tile installation, thus eliminating an indoor air pollutant. By studying how certain organisms are capable of living without water is leading the way for the production of vaccines that maintain potency without refrigeration.
In 1998, Benyus cofounded the Helena, Montana-based Biomimicry Guild, which taps the knowledge of biological adaptations to help designers, engineers, architects, and business leaders solve design and engineering challenges with sustainable solutions. In 2006, she cofounded the Biomimicry Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Missoula, Montana, which promotes the study and imitation of nature’s designs through educational programs in schools and by conducting workshops and trainings.
Companies such as Nike, Boeing, GE, as well as universities and architects, are turning to Benyus and her colleagues to learn how their designs, products, and manufacturing processes can be improved by borrowing ideas from nature’s organisms and ecosystems.
For her work, Janine Benyus received the 2011 John Heinz Award and the 2012 Cooper-Hewitt Design Mind Award. She also was a featured speaker in two TED talks, one in 2007 and one in 2009.