Monday, November 24, 2014

Global Biomimics Gather!

I just got back from the Biomimicry Network Leaders gathering in San Francisco - what an amazing experience! It felt like coming home to my extended family. A few quick highlights:

Photo by Alexandra Ramsden, Biomimicy Puget Sound

  • will be THE place to go for global network information, so be sure to bookmark and follow the page! As a network, we will have great access to post our events to this global stage, so contact Rachel or Amy if you want your event to be recognized.
  • We started the process of mapping our network and how ours relates to the global network, so be sure to contact us if you want to be included! 
  • We're collaborating on a global stage to share best practices for everything from genius of place and education initiatives to how to set up a network! So if you have a question or initiative you'd like to pursue, contact us!
  • We keep learning more about the global design challenge and will be planning some events around this in the coming year - visit the global design challenge site to learn more!  
  • Biomimicry San Diego network leader Tamsin Woolley-Barker's kickstarter campaign to fund her book "SuperOrganizations: Nature's Game-Changing Guide To Faster, Smarter, More Valuable Companies" was fully funded! So keep contributing to get your copy!  
I'd love to tell you all about it, so contact me to learn more!

Monday, November 10, 2014

How Does Nature...? A Lesson in Biomimicry

Find out how to use AskNature to guide sustainable solutions in this new webinar!

Wednesday, November 12

Do you have a tough design challenge that you want to look to nature to help solve? AskNature, the world's most comprehensive catalog of nature's solutions to design challenges, can help!

Join the Biomimicry Institute's Gretchen Hooker and Jen Schill on November 12 at 9 AM MST (11 AM EST/8 AM PST) to learn how to use AskNature to identify sustainable solutions. During this one-hour webinar, brought to you by the Disruptive Innovation Festival, you'll learn how to use AskNature to get inspired while exploring a design challenge and gaining a greater understanding of biomimicry.

Don't miss this opportunity for a step-by-step introduction to AskNature and how you can apply this tool to design a healthier planet.

Learn more and register here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New workshop announced! Biomimicry and the Built Environment

We're looking forward to seeing folks at the Prairie Walk tonight! 6pm on the grounds of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum! If you can't make it and still want to learn more, be sure to check out Prairie Lab's upcoming 3 CEU workshop on October 17th!

Lurie Gardens. Photo by @amycoffman

Biomimicry and the Built Environment: Nature’s Design Strategies

"Nature is inherently resilient and restorative. Learn how to unlock and apply the science behind Nature’s design strategies and look at challenges in the built environment through a biomimicry lens. Biomimicry, the practice of learning from nature to solve human problems, is emerging as a powerful tool for sustainable design and systemic transformation. Applied at a variety of scales, from individual products to buildings and organizations, biomimicry brings nature's 3.8 billion years of innovation experience to the table to redefine the nature of design.
This 3 CEU course, led by Prairie Lab instructors, includes an introduction to the practice of biomimicry, a look at Life’s Principles as applied to challenges in the built environment, and a guided tour of our local prairie ecosystem where you will experience nature’s locally-attuned design strategies for yourself. Through lecture and hands-on, experiential exercises, you will explore functions in nature, from water and energy management to fostering connection to “place,” and translate them to the language of design. The biomimicry lens provides a useful perspective and design inspiration for your LEED, Living Building Challenge, and Net Zero projects."
To register, click here!

Sponsored by USGBC-Illinois and Prairie Lab, LLC. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stories from the Prairie: Applying the “Genius of our Place” to Unlock Nature’s Strategies for Resilient, Restorative Design

Nature is inherently resilient and restorative while our human systems are...not. But what could we learn about the nature of design by studying the science of nature? By exploring our native organisms and ecosystems with a biomimicry lens, we can unlock nature’s locally-attuned design strategies and begin to apply them to our context: creating buildings, businesses and communities that are inherently sustainable, naturally.

Lurie Gardens. Photo by @amycoffman

In the other articles in this series, I wrote about the importance of connecting with nature and ways to do so. In this last (for a time, at least) article in this series, I share some stories of what I've learned in my exploration of the tallgrass prairie as well as a vision for a more sustainable and resilient world: one where our choices are based on working with and leveraging local context and energy flows rather than fighting against them.

It’s time to start thinking differently.

Like Wes Jackson who was inspired by the prairie to rethink industrial agriculture to Allan Savory who emulates grazing for holistic land management and Gerould Wilhelm who emulates the prairie in landscape design, each of these innovators look to the prairie ecosystem as inspiration for alternatives to standard practice. Doing so, they were able to (re)think standard practices, creating more low-maintenance, cost-effective, and biodiverse alternatives. And you can do this too.

Visit The B-Collaborative's Blog to learn more!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Design Competition: Biomimicry and Food Scarcity

I'm actually not quite sure if I've ever heard of a cooler competition or idea. And can The Land Institute enter it even though they've been working on this issue for decades? Let's get our collective thinking caps on! - Amy

Big Bluestem photo by +Amy Coffman-Phillips 
"The Biomimicry Institute is partnering with the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and food and conservation experts to solicit nature-inspired solutions toward ending world hunger. From 2015-2017, our Global Biomimicry Design Challenge will mobilize thousands of students and professionals around the world to tackle the problem of food security. Our goal: show how modeling nature can provide viable solutions to reduce hunger, while creating conditions conducive to all life."

Learn more!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Biomimicry Prairie Walk

Mark your calendars! We are excited to celebrate fall with a biomimicry walk on the prairie - Thursday, September 25th. 6pm on the grounds of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Photo by Amy Coffman Phillips

Fall is a gorgeous time for a walk in the prairie, so let's get outside and explore our native prairie ecosystem through a biomimicry lens! Biomimicry, the practice of learning from nature to solve human problems, is emerging as a powerful tool for creating sustainable design and systemic transformation. Applied at a variety of scales, from individual products to buildings and organizations, biomimicry brings nature's 3.8 billion years of innovation experience to the table to redefine sustainable innovation.

Weather permitting, join local biomimic, Amy Coffman Phillips, and Interpretive Naturalist, Cheryl McGarry, for an inspirational guided tour of the grounds at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Center with an informal networking event afterward.

Free - USGBC-Illinois Members
$15 - Non-Members

Space is limited so register today!

Monday, September 8, 2014

New seminar just added!

Curious to know more about nature's resilience principles and what they can mean for your life and work? Catch a glimpse at the next seminar this Saturday, September 13th, 10am. Chicago Center for Green Technology. Register today!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Learn from Nature: Activities for Exploring Nature's Genius

Everyone can connect with the genius of your place and learn from nature! Find out how in the second of a series of articles by BioChi co-founder @amycoffman. 

Photo by for @amycoffman
"After reading last week's entry, you may be thinking - I've found time to get outside, but what do I do now? Last week, we focused on the importance of getting outside and exploring nature as a part if your regular routine. This week, we will focus on what to do when you get there."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

(Re)Connecting with Nature: Exploring Biomimicry in Our Local Ecosystems

Biomimicry Chicago Co-Founder, Amy Coffman Phillips, is writing a series of articles on the power of reconnection in the practice of biomimicry:

"Whenever I talk about biomimicry, I am usually asked a question along the lines of “how do I get started?” And the answer is remarkably simple - you start by going outside. Going for a walk through your local ecosystem, setting aside all that you need to do, reawakening your natural curiosity, and experiencing nature’s genius is a powerful act that will change your perspective on nature, your place in it, and forever alter the path of your career and life."

Read more on her blog!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New to biomimicry?

Check out a new introductory seminar at the Chicago Center for Green Technology next Thursday, July 17th. 6pm. FREE as a service to our green community! Register here.

(Re)Connecting with Nature: Exploring Biomimicry in Your Own Backyard

Speakers: Amy Coffman Phillips & Rachel Haus, Biomimicry Chicago
Audience: General

Biomimicry, the practice of learning from nature to solve human problems, is emerging as a powerful tool for creating sustainable design and systemic transformation. Applied at a variety of scales, from individual products to buildings and organizations, biomimicry brings nature's 3.8 billion years of innovation experience to the table to redefine sustainable innovation. Weather permitting, course includes a guided tour of our local prairie ecosystem viewed through the biomimicry lens, an introduction to the biomimicry methodology, and facilitated experiences that help participants comprehend and begin to apply nature’s lessons to their lives and work.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Upcoming workshop on #NetZero energy featuring #Biomimicry - May 30th

Designers have many questions when seeking to truly emulate nature in the built environment, where our buildings generate energycapture water, and recycle their waste while contributing to the communities they inhabit:
What role can innovation play in designing net zero buildings - from biomimicry’s Life’s Principles to tools for a new energy economy - and how can I evaluate the return on investment for my clients so that they greenlight the project?

At an upcoming 4-hour in-person workshop hosted by the professional development venture Prairie Lab, LLC, attendees participate in facilitated brainstorming and problem-solving exercises where they seek innovative solutions to the challenge of designing net-zero buildings. During the workshop, participants identify current constraints to designing net-zero buildings, spend time finding innovative solutions to challenges, and learn how to frame the discussion in economic terms.
Register today! 
Friday, May 30th. Program from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.
Registration and Breakfast at 8:00 a.m.
Venue SIX10 - 610 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago4 CEUs. $250. Register by May 23rd to guarantee your spot! 
Prairie Lab, LLCPrairie Lab is a new professional development venture founded by three former Chairs of USGBC-Illinois. We specialize in hands-on, university-style courses customized to a firm’s needs. Occasionally we host public workshops to offer a sample of the Prairie Lab experience. Our expertise is in sustainability, energy, biomimicry, health, business, and facility management.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dormancy as an Energy Strategy: Learning from our Native Prairie

It’s been a long winter! Can you remember last summer’s lush green prairies when looking at them today, just emerging from their brown and dormant stage? As we drag ourselves out of our own winter dormancy and into the full light of spring, let’s take a moment to consider how our buildings and businesses can begin to emulate the biomimicry Life’s Principle to “Leverage Cyclic Processes” by embedding the ability to automatically respond to local conditions.
By understanding how ecosystems, like our native tallgrass prairie, are attuned to local conditions, we can begin to design buildings that optimize resource allocation while being more responsive to user needs. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Strategies for staying warm - this bird does what?

Ever heard of the Australian Brush-turkey? Probably not. For a turkey it's pretty showy - bright red head, yellow (or purple) wattle, sideways fanned tail. But this bird has an even showier strategy it uses to incubate its eggs. While most birds sit for hours, sometimes taking turns, sometimes one bird stuck doing the whole thing, the Australian brush-turkey has managed to figure out how to incubate its eggs and be free to roam.

File:Alectura lathami - Centenary Lakes.jpg
Australian Brushturkey - Source: Wikipedia

One of Life's Principles is that life uses readily available materials and energy. This concept is pretty easy to understand and it's pretty easy to find examples of this on your doorstep. The squirrel that lives in your tree isn't traveling to the next village, let alone Alabama, in search of materials to build its nest; it is finding materials in a relatively small radius around its home. Similarly, a plant isn't getting energy to grow from a coal-fired power plant, it's harnessing the sun's energy. Aside from energy from the sun, what other sources of energy can you think of that are readily available? I'm betting that this bird has you beat in terms of creativity in finding a readily available energy source.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Art of Science Learning Chicago Innovation Incubator

The memo on my desk seven years from now, I said in my Biomimicry Professional application, was from the mayor indicating I had been selected to solve the urban nutrition issue, using biomimicry of course, in the most forward thinking city in the universe. While I am very interested in urban nutrition issues, I know very little about them but have always wanted to know more. Today I joined 100 other people in the first day of the Art of Science Learning Chicago Innovation Incubator which, over the course of this year, will look to innovate viable solutions around the issue of urban nutrition. I am so excited!

While I don't think I'm on my way to becoming a true expert in urban nutrition or selected to lead any such effort in the near future, not only will I be learning a lot about the subject and meeting amazing people, but perhaps more importantly for the long term I'll also be learning about tools to inspire innovation through interaction with the arts. I am not sure that this could have come at a better time - getting a well-rounded education around inspiring innovation through Biomimicry Thinking AND the arts will allow me to figure out ways to combine the two and hopefully be even more effective in reaching/connecting more people to biomimicry.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Biomimicry Thinking

As a part of the Biomimicry Professional program we have been doing a deep dive into Life's Principles - those principles that all life must adhere to to be successful (survive). This process has gotten me thinking about life's principles in my own life - how can I be more multi-functional? In what ways do I replicate strategies that work? I've found myself categorizing tasks I'm doing - such as streamlining the cookie-making process for a school fundraiser (I was much smarter about it this year...finally) and building upon a stage made for our girls a few years ago which since last year also serves as a puppet show stage and this year is a little house (via a felt overhang covering). I find myself thinking, how can I be more successful - and for me that means getting things done with any semblance of time left over for me to breathe - still working on that!

This week we are starting to look at Biomimicry Thinking - using Biomimicry tools and principles throughout the design process. As I did the assignment I had been thinking about how others use life's principles in the design process of which, not being in any semblance of a design world, I have zero experience. But someone's discussion post made me stop and think. I had considered design of a product, a building, a neighborhood, business strategy around a product, etc., but how does this apply to what I do currently? Is there anything I do that could be considered "design"? What about "designing" a sustainability strategy/goals/programs for a business (not product specific)? Yes. What about designing a sustainability training program?...sure - I'll have to work on that one. So how can I apply Biomimicry Thinking to what I do currently? It will be something I catch myself thinking about going forward for certain.

What kind of "design" do you do? Could Biomimicry Thinking be integrated into your "design" process? How can the products or services or actions you deliver have a greater chance of enhancing rather than detracting from Life on earth?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Waste is Normal?? Lessons from a Bird Feeder

Industrial ecology and bird feeders - what?? Check out Amy's recent blog post on lessons we can learn about waste management by observing nature.

"Waste is normal. This observation is a bit shocking to me. It flies in the face of all sustainability theory I've read and practiced for the last fifteen years, so how can I observe that waste is normal? Because it is, when you look at component parts in isolation without seeing the larger system. Not every species can consume the entirety of the resources that are offered. Sometimes, there is waste, but this waste is readily taken up by another component, resulting in a zero-waste system."

Read more at The B-Collaborative Blog