Natural Intelligence

Nature is one of the best R&D labs out there. Technology emulating nature has resulted in revolutionary innovations that make modern life easier, healthier and more sustainable: from phones whose loudspeakers were inspired by human eardrums, to entirely new approaches of creating color inspired by the color-shifting properties of a butterfly’s wings. Called biomimicry, there’s potential for replicating nature’s intelligence to produce packaging that decomposes and is not harmful to the environment.

According to the newly formed conglomerate Biomimicry 3.8, the biomimicry field has progressed at a stunning pace in recent years. Biomimicry provides a strategy for practical applications that emulate years of brilliant designs. From durable but biodegradable packaging such as sea beans—large bean pods that ripen to become woody and heavy—or the coconut palm—which dispatches its seed inside a hard shell that contains everything it needs to survive—many of nature’s containers can serve as inspiration for the future’s innovative packaging ideas.

Think of the possibilities if technology of a pelican pouch that scoops three gallons of seawater then returns to shape could be mimicked. A flexible bottle design that fills up like a balloon only to collapse when emptied would provide options for consumers on the go or for easily returning containers for recycling hundreds at a time.

What if liquids could be stored in a cellular matrix similar to fruits and vegetables, which are often times more than 90% water but don’t slosh because it’s stored between cells? Or if a cellular matrix could be applied for the skin of a bottle; once emptied, it could be eaten like an orange slice or dissolve in the bath tub instead of a landfill.

Nature is filled with wonders that tote, store and protect treasures from a treacherous world. If packagers take the time to seek sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns, they can learn from nature that has already solved many of the problems the industry is grappling with.