Monday, June 19, 2017

I got outside!

The mental hurdle of "finding the time" to go outside can sometimes be huge, but the resulting relaxation is worth it. Last week I spent all day at a workshop. By the time I got back, my brain was fried and I had a headache. After going outside to do my Biomimicry Chicago June iSite, I felt so much better. Purposefully taking the time to sit down, relax, observe is not just good biomimicry practice, it's good for the body and soul.

I started by doing a five minute warm-up exercise from the book "Keeping a Nature Journal" by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth which got me in the observing mode.

Then I went into my June iSite and focused on the fern. An ancient species, the fern is well adapted to a forest's low light understory. I was amazed at how the form you see at a macro scale was repeated again and again to much smaller scales. Possibly an efficient way to gather as much light as possible? My mind of course went to the large broad leaves of the rainforest understory. Why are they different? But of course, I'm just doing a 20-30 minute iSite, so the answers to that question would be for another day. I'll tuck that question away in the back of my brain though for if there ever comes a time when I am working on a similar challenge. Then I'd dig deep.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Let's get outside and learn - together!

Summer is an AMAZING time to be outside and experience nature, and this summer Biomimicry Chicago would like to invite you to experience nature with us - biomimicry style!

Biomimicry is the emulation of life’s forms, processes, and systems into the context of human innovation, and we want everyone in the Biomimicry Chicago network to collectively explore our region and share ideas. Each month, we will be giving you an observational challenge - what biomimics call an “iSite,” where we will ask you to go outside in a natural area by you and observe life’s forms, processes, and systems in context and explore what YOU can learn from nature. This is a FREE program that we are offering to build the biomimicry competency of local practitioners while growing our network, so join us today! Sign up for our mailing list and learn more today!

  • June’s Challenge: Exploring Life’s Forms
  • July’s Challenge: Exploring Life’s Processes
  • August’s Challenge: Exploring Life’s Systems
To participate, all you need to do is read the challenge, find a natural area near you, and observe. Complete the exercise and send your sketches, essays, or photos to us at and we will compile your entries and showcase them to the Global Biomimicry Network through our website and social media channels.

Explore your own creativity and learn about biomimicry this summer with Biomimicry Chicago!

June’s Challenge: Finding Forms in Nature

Integral to the practice of biomimicry is a connection with and respect for life’s organisms and ecosystems. To foster this connection and hone your skills of observation, we ask you to go outside in a natural area (a wildlife preserve, a garden, or even your backyard) and observe nature’s forms. For a portion of the time, just sit and be still. Do not check your phone or record observations at first – just open your eyes and “quiet your cleverness” as Dr. Dayna Baumeister says. Relax, focus on (re)connecting with the world around you, and let your creative juices flow.

When you are ready, consider the following questions:
  • Where are you?
  • What are you observing?
  • What forms do you see that intrigue you?
  • Are they examples of well-adapted design? If so, how?
  • What design insights does this give you for your own life and work?
  • What do you want to learn more about?
We recommend you spend at least 30 minutes outside just observing and then record your observations in a journal entry, blog, video, graphic, sketch or other medium and including a photo or two to remember your experience.

An example of completed assignment, for your reference:

Exercise adapted from Biomimicry3.8 Professional Certificate Program iSite with facilitated discussion methods from Technology of Participation by The Institute of Cultural Affairs.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Getting Ready for our Deep Roots Workshop: My Current Reading List

We are getting more and more excited as we prepare for our upcoming Deep Roots Workshop April 21. As we dig deeper into how biomimicry can apply to the built environment not only as it applies to a building or project site, but also to a regional discussion of what all sustainability and resiliency efforts are working towards, we are adding shape to our Deep Roots vision. I wrote about this recently on my Think Biomimicry blog post about shifting a built environment designed to sit upon a landscape into one that lives within it, and included my current reading list as I prepare for our workshop.

We are inspired and awed by the incredible work taking place within the Chicagoland region such as the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative, the Center for Neighborhood Technology Rain Ready program, the innovative work of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District including their Restore the Canopy, Plant a Tree program, the Urban Wildlife Institute which studies the interaction between urban development and the natural ecosystem, and of course the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council's work to envision a future for our region.

Together, these efforts and countless others move our region in a direction towards restoring greater resilience and sustainability. The question is, how will we know if we have done enough or how far we have to go? How do we know if we achieve "sustainability" or sufficient redundancy and diversity in our systems to be able to provide the services needed to live here for centuries to come?

I hope you find the articles inspiring and get you thinking about our built environment in a whole new way. Bring that thinking to our workshop! We're excited to share our thoughts and hope to learn from and work with you to figure out how to make it a reality.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Biomimicry Chicago Upcoming Events: April 2017

Carbon as Catalyst
Thursday April 6

5:30 - 6:30pm

Hosted by AECOM, 100 South Wacker Drive, Suite 500, Chicago

RSVP for this FREE event TODAY!

Moving beyond carbon emissions.

In nature, carbon cycles throughout our atmosphere, soils, water and all life, tying us all together. Carbon is a critical abundant resource that, together with water and the energy from sunlight, forms the fundamental building blocks of life.

Next Thursday April 6, learn how people fighting climate change are beginning to move beyond simply reducing carbon emissions to a strategy of looking to complete the carbon cycle as nature does, including seeing carbon as a resource and catalyst for new business opportunities. 
Thirsty Thursdays: RSVP Today!

Deep Roots Workshop, Friday April 21, 2017

Don't forget to register today for our Deep Roots Workshop! We are excited to share our vision for how the topics we've covered in our Thirsty Thursday events - ecosystem services, biodiversity, water and carbon management - can tie together to create a science-based framework that defines sustainability for our region. For more information, visit our event websiteEarly Bird pricing ends April 7!
Workshop: RSVP Today!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Think Biomimicry #SystemReset Series - New Post!

In my latest post on Trulstech's innovative Molecular Heat Eater (MHE) family of flame retardants and the flame retardant industry, I continue to explore how using biomimicry to not only innovate new technology but also use different materials based on life-friendly chemistry has the potential to disrupt entire product category ecosystems toward a more sustainable future.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Registration is LIVE for our Inaugural Deep Roots Workshop!

Urban flooding...water pollution...topsoil erosion...urban heat islands... 
Did you ever wonder WHY we face these challenges? While their individual causes are complex, they result from one systemic failure: the systematic removal of ecosystem services from our built environment. The time is right and the need is great to radically shift our built environment approach towards one of holistic regeneration rooted in the genius of our place - northeastern Illinois.

Kick off event!

Using water to illustrate our ideas and approach, we will discuss how learning from our local ecology allows us to shift our thinking about stormwater from waste to critical resource - one to hold on to for as long as possible. Through fun brainstorming activities, we will use real projects provided by workshop partners alongside design principles from local natural models to reimagine the potential of our local water management systems to shift from operating at a deficit to generating a net positive water balance.

At our one-day event, we will begin to explore the opportunities to use the cutting-edge biomimicry innovation methodology to design and build lost ecosystem functions back into our built environment. Join us in kicking off this exciting new initiative for the Chicago region!

Who Should Come?

To lay the foundation for this shift, we seek to collaborate with multidisciplinary teams (with people like you!) to develop publicly accessible information and tools to inform our collective decision making and measure the success of our designs.

Therefore, our goal is to bring in as diverse a group as possible - all perspectives are needed and valued! Architects, designers, engineers (civil, industrial...all kinds!), developers, municipal workers, biologists, landscape architects, students and educators, planners, economists, and more!

During this event, participants will:
  • Explore the grounds of the Lurie Garden with ecologists and learn about the inherent sustainability and resilience of our native ecosystems;
  • Learn about ecosystem functions as applied to the built environment through interactive activities;
  • Learn biomimicry tools and strategies for learning from nature to create innovative solutions to critical challenges; and
  • Collectively brainstorm a common vision for The Deep Roots Project that will continue long after the initial event.

Our Speakers

Speakers who will lead the workshop include Biomimicry Chicago network leaders Amy Coffman Phillips and Rachel Hahs as well as Conservation Design forum's Jim Patchett and the Lurie Garden's Director Scott Stewart. The Deep Roots initiative is guided by industry leaders representing diverse experience including architecture, business, ecology and design, and we welcome all participants in bringing this initiative to work for the Chicago region. If you would like to be a part of this initiative, either as an organization or as an individual, please contact us.

Learn more and register today!