Our economic conundrum solved!- How sustainable innovation can provide the key.

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Nature is the most pervasive aspect of our life yet the most ignored. How often do we stop and marvel at the fortuitous ants or the feisty beetle? When have we stopped to gaze at the small flower growing in the field or at a leaf swaying in the wind? At first glance, these creatures seem inconsequential and uninteresting. Yet, if for a moment, we pause and delve into these details, we will uncover something remarkable- an unfounded innovation. Every aspect, structure, and process of our natural world has a meaning and principle that can revolutionize our thinking and lives. For instance, something as minute as a bird’s beak could completely transform our bullet trains or the simple buzzing honey bees can redefine cloud computing.

To tap into this potential, recently, companies have been exploring biomimicry- a method of innovation in which we observe nature, abstract its principles, and use them as a blueprint to solve our most challenging problems. Not only does biomimicry foster innovation, but it also creates environmentally sustainable products as well. In fact, Biomimicry is refining the corporate approach to environmental care by “bringing a new discipline – biology – to the design table. It’s not to write an environmental impact statement, as most biologists in business do right now.” (Janine Benyus)

For instance, the company Sharklet, using an inspiration form the shark skin has revolutionized the material science and cleaning industries. Some scientists observed that no barnacles ever stick to the shark skin. Curious, they decided to study the shark skin under the microscope and came across a startling discovery. The shark’s skin contains patterns of microscopic spacings, which fools the bacteria into believing there is not enough surface to stick on. This product, created using the principles of biomimicry, has far reaching implications that scale multiple industries. Not only does it benefit the billion-dollar ship cleaning industry by providing environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution, but also benefits the healthcare industry by providing effective sanitation for medical facilities.

The impact of biomimicry does not stop there. By using inspiration derived from the mushroom root system, the company Ecovative has finally created a reliable and environmentally friendly substitute for Styrofoam. Scientists from Ecovative observed the intricate qualities of the mushroom root system. Then, taking this concept and some common agricultural waste, they created a packaging material that is durable and can be adjusted to meet any set of criteria. These sustainable materials can be produced in large-scale and is comparable to the costs of fossil-fuel based Styrofoam.

Moreover, not only does Biomimicry helps create more efficient products in a very cost-effective manner, it provides a much larger solution to one of society’s most salient uncertainties- the relationship between economic growth and environmental care. So far, some politicians and economics have berated environmental care and sustainability as a thorn for economic growth. For instance, our president went so far to pull the United States from the Paris Accord due to possible stunting of economic growth! But, by changing our thinking and adopting new ideologies, I believe that it is absolutely possible to focus on sustainability and grow our economy, a belief not just one for the future, but a current reality already being felt by many industries.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Pavan Raj Gowda is a seventeen year-old high school senior from Fremont, CA., as well as an author, environmentalist, and Founder of Green Kids Now, a non-profit organization.

Pavan has published two books, “Geckoboy-The Battle of Fracking” and “Two Tales from a Kid”. As a Climate Leader he is very focused on being part of the solution, and showing his generation that Innovation and Environmental Sustainability should not be considered separately.

The 3 New R’s for our path forward

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When most people think about environment care they think of the current ‘R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. But, these ‘R’s, are not sufficient as it only focuses on Waste Management. Going forward I think we should adopt, “Rethink, Redesign, and Restore” with Environmental Sustainability in the core of everything we do. These new ‘R’s will dramatically help us, as it would provide us with new vision and new set of goals to redo, rebuild, and revive.

Rethinking can be applied in the manufacturing industry. For example, most of the problems we are having today in us not knowing how to use our raw materials properly and to dispose of an item properly, like plastics, are because when we were formulating these products we did not consider these important factors. But now we know from our previous mistakes that the correct way to make a product or solution is to think of environmental sustainability from the beginning. It’s time for us to rethink our manufacturing processes and our materials industry, by adopting natural processes like self-assembly process of nature, and expand green chemistry initiatives to ramp up the availability of new materials.

Our current systems are mostly outdated, and redesign is desperately needed to manage our current and future needs. Almost everything in our built world, like our energy distribution, our water storage and distribution, transportation and communication systems, requires rebuilding. Let’s take the electrical distribution system; in today’s world if one electrical line breaks, most of the city has a black-out. Scientists have been studying the vein structures found in leaves, for its efficient and redundant ways by which it distributes water, and other materials. Even when the main vein of the leaf is cut, it doesn’t affect the distribution to the rest of the leaf. Studying and adopting the natural systems will help us redesign for a more robust and sustainable built world.

Over the past years, we have destroyed too much in order to build and expand. That’s why we need to restore and revive our natural resources. We need to increase our preservation and conservation efforts. We need to also be aware that every time a plant or animal becomes extinct, we lose knowledge that could benefit us greatly. Remember, anything that affects our ecosystems, will affect humans too.

So, let’s collaborate to Rethink, Redesign, and Restore our world, with Environmental Sustainability in our hearts.

About the Author:

Pavan is 14 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Published author, Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show. (http://greenkidsnow.org)

Watch Pavan’s speech at the 4th annual, Green Kids Conference:

Founder’s Speech at the 4th annual, Green Kids Conference!