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.

That's one of many haunting statistics that makes clear the fact that plastic and packaging waste is pressing global challenge that won't be solved without sustainable innovation and collaboration across industries.

 Nature's Technology Summary card

Nature's Technology Summary card

That's why we were proud to make our new Biomimicry + Packaging Innovation Toolkit available to the public in October. The toolkit is a new resource that brings people together, and 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 it's debut.

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 that include 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.

 Nature's Technology Summary card

Nature's Technology Summary card

"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 toolkit was developed for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 (CE100) Collaborative Project initiative in collaboration with Biomimicry 3.8 and CE100 members Dell and Heineken. EMF's CE100 program allows members to work together in a pre-competitive space so they can tackle big problems like plastic packaging waste and "realize 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.

This Co.Project 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 for 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.

 The toolkit includes a Biomimicry Brainstorming-in-a-Box card deck

The toolkit includes a Biomimicry Brainstorming-in-a-Box card deck

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."

Biomimicry + Packaging Innovation Toolkit

Want more inspiration from nature on innovations that contribute to the Circular Economy? Download a free Biomimicry + Packaging Innovation toolkit.