Photo: Mark Bryant
Special Focus on the Environment
17th Heinz Awards - 2011
Janine Benyus received the 17th Heinz Award – Special Focus on the Environment – for launching a unique concept that has forever changed the way we think about design. She has inspired the design industry to draw from nature’s strategies as a resource in areas as disparate as carpeting, cities, health care and energy.
With the publication of her book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, she introduced thousands of people to the notion that nature has the best track record for smart designs and innovations. The likes of Nike, Boeing and GE, as well as universities and architects, have turned to Ms. Benyus to learn how their designs, products and manufacturing processes can be improved by borrowing ideas from nature’s organisms and ecosystems.
Ms. Benyus co-founded Biomimicry 3.8, a global network of cutting-edge scientists, engineers, architects and other innovators who borrow from nature’s toolbox to help further environmentally-friendly technologies and business practices.
When she asked, “How does a gecko cling upside down to a ceiling?” the answer led to the discovery of the first glue-free carpet tile installation, eliminating a serious indoor air pollutant. By studying how India’s Western Ghats forests provide ecosystem services, she helped a city near Mumbai pledge to provide those same services.
Ms. Benyus and her team also developed a groundbreaking and popular database called Ask Nature, where visitors can seek answers from nature to complex design challenges and can also see how organisms filter air and water, gather solar energy and create non-toxic dyes and glues.
Ms. Benyus is a tireless and enthusiastic speaker, traveling the world to promote the value of applying nature’s lessons to individuals and industry. Through her hard work and creativity, Ms. Benyus reminds us that we don’t always need to recreate the wheel when solving problems because the answers are often right in front of us, if we know where to look.
Note: This profile was written at the time of the awards’ presentation.