Biomimicry – a holistic approach to life and work

Biomimicry workshop out in the open

Biomimicry is an approach we can take to resolve our challenges while coming up with nature-inspired, sustainable solutions. These solutions, whether they are processes, policies or products, should be viable in the long run. The main idea behind biomimicry approach is that nature has already worked out many problems and by closely examining some of its methods and mirroring them, we can find new answers.

Biomimicry actually tells us how to live a responsible, sustainable life. It teaches us to redesign our processes and also to run a sustainable business.

Biomimicry explained via Fast Company

Tigrilla Gardenia shared her insights on the importance of biomimicry when designing our surroundings, our business, and even our lives. She shared a story of her personal search and discovery of biomimicry as an answer to the gap that exists in many human-made systems.

Tigrilla has been living in Damanhur, the largest spiritual eco-community in Europe situated in Northern Italy. She chose to join the co-living experience 7 years ago because she felt strongly about sharing resources and living in a supportive community and she wanted her life to embody those principles.

From working in high-tech to developing interest in Biomimicry

Although her background is varied, she tries to bridge the natural component and the artistic component in her work.

She graduated in Music Engineering and went to work in high-tech. There she also worked with creativepreneurs trying to combine the natural and the artistic factor. 

Currently, she works as a Communication and Business Development consultant. She facilitates nature-inspired projects and mentors naturepreneurs that are just starting out. Her main points of interest are biomimicry and biophilic design.

Introduction to biophilic design

Along the years, she’s worked on various projects, from facilitating for EU level projects to collaborating with architects at individual companies. In addition to this, she does 1-on-1 coaching and consulting sessions with naturepreneurs and creativepreneurs.

Even though nature makes for a big part of her work, she tends to think and act holistically. Holistic approach allows seeing a system as a whole and co-creating with nature. Sustainability is only one of many principles her work respects. Over the past 7 years, she’s been working to spread the message of co-living, co-creating, and sharing resources. In union, we’re stronger, she believes.

Her Biomimicry journey started when she saw a post on Social media. It amazed her that there was a technique that enabled you to make a multidisciplinary team and come up with sustainable solutions.

She started learning about Biomimicry online. Later on, she found resources like Biomimicry 3.8 and various courses across the world. Finally, she found experts in the field and contacted them. She shadowed them and cofacilitated with them. Little by little, she gained enough experience to be able to do it on her own.

Tigrilla facilitating a workshop in nature.

Uniqueness of Plants

Her love for the natural world only grew deeper while she was trying to answer: “Are plants really intelligent?” She fell in love with the plant world and with a device Damanhur has created – Music of the plants.

Plants make music. Music is the universal language that allows one to connect with the emotional side of a person.  She started researching plant intelligence. Then she got a Masters degree in Futuro Vegetale in Florence: Plants and social innovation and design.

She discovered there are methods to bring the plant world as a collaborator in the process. This approach doesn’t merely use nature as a tool or inspiration.

Biomimicry centers around asking what would nature do, and finding an answer to how one can co-create with it. It teaches us how to make plants our partners. Biomimicry as an approach teaches us how to create better cities, urban plantations and social systems.

Biomimicry – where scientific and applied converge

While Tigrilla was looking into all different studies about plant intelligence, the findings impressed her. She realized a lot of information stayed in the scientist environment. Not many people know how to read scientific papers, because they’re confusing, and long.

That’s why she started to examine how the research is being incorporated and if it’s even being incorporated. It surprised her to find most of this research stayed in the archives. Biologists and social scientists didn’t merge it with business.

An approach that brings different perspectives together

On the other hand, biomimicry brings different people and different personalities to the table. Instead of having people coming only from the technological background or only from the business background, biomimicry approach enforces diversity of vocation and also point of view.

Working in a multidisciplinary team.

Biomimicry has 26 Life’s principles that are regarded as rules of life creation. These are based on principles and patterns we already notice in nature. Some of the most important are:

  • self-organize
  • cultivate cooperative relationships
  • use feedback loops
  • evolve to survive
  • form to function

As humans, we tend to be aesthetic. We prefer form over function. We make something beautiful and then we try to make it work. Nature does it in reverse. Nature is all about functionality. Function over form.

When we look at a mountainous landscape or an ocean, we see it as a whole and we think it’s beautiful. It inspires us. As humans, we think it’s the most important to make things beautiful. But nature prioritizes function, and function becomes beautiful because it’s functional. There is a richness in the way nature does it.

Take a pen, for example. We use it to write. If designed right, it prevents Carpal tunnel syndrome. It makes the ink move in the right direction. It can help you keep your better posture. There are different ways we can look at the function.

If not designed right, a pen can damage your wrist. Nature never builds something that could hurt somebody else by chance. When it does, it does it on purpose, like with poisons and toxins. Nature never builds something without a function.

How to start with Biomimicry

Tigrilla recommends anyone interested in the topic to start with Biomimicry 3.8. The platform has plenty of downloadable documents. They organize courses, two certification programmes and a Masters degree throughout the year.

A great resource to get the principles and understanding is the book Biomimicry by Janine Benyus. Then, there’s a course listed on Coursera.
Another great resource are Biomimicry groups in different countries one can find on social media.

You can even find Biomimicry and artificial intelligence coming together at Hackathon Nature 2.0.

As mentioned above, there are 26 principles of Biomimicry. However, we don’t need to incorporate all of them at once when designing. We can combine them with similar principles, like cradle-to-cradle and social permaculture.

Freedom for each person comes in different ways.

Tigrilla Gardenia, biomimicry practitioner

Entrepreneurial journey

Tigrilla started being active in the field of Biomimicry almost two years ago. She joined an NGO called Bioversum which later merged with University of Applied Sciences Burgenland. There she worked on projects of redesigning the hierarchical structure that exists in many workplaces.

She’s recently worked on a project proposal for the City of Hope outside of Auschwitz. This has been a collaborative project realized with an architect. They chose to design it using the trees of the area that witnessed what had happened but that can also help us heal.

Another project she was involved with was a four-years-long EU funded project HYDROUSA which addressed the creation of regenerative water solutions in three Greek islands.

Tigrilla works as a Business growth consultant. As she travels a lot to collaborate on international projects, you can see her working all over Europe.

Tigrilla having a conference call.

Biomimicry and business development

Most businesses are built with a narrow view of how to satisfy the target audience instead of seeing how they can create an impact.

Biomimicry demands a team to have a minimum of a biologist, and a designer of some sort; already two different points of view. And then depending on the application, a business person or a doctor or an engineer. 

This makes us look at things more holistically. Biologists are used to scientific methods and are used to looking at it from one perspective, where a technologist is all about “There are no rules. What can we build?”. Now we have all these different ideas coming together that are both nature-based and technology-based and we start creating.

Mentoring naturepreneurs

Tigrilla works with clients on various projects to help them develop their business. They’re all projects that are impact-driven and socially responsible. One of them is a nature-based photographer working on a book that includes the cycles of plant life presented through photography, poetry, and science. Another client is working to bring the Music of the Plants into elementary schools to make nature more approachable to kids.

She helps them develop their business plan, work with investors, develop their message and get it across. She helps them with business development as she has a lot of contacts working in this field. Tigrilla became a mentor by chance.

Early on she realized the importance of mentorship in her first years of working in high-tech. She was lucky enough that her boss saw her as a mentee. His biggest achievement was to prepare her to one day take his place. Tigrilla believes you should never be afraid of passing on your knowledge. You should never look at others as competition.

Struggling as Entrepreneur

Along the years with all her professional achievements came some struggles. The biggest trouble, she admits, was her relationship with money. Being able to balance the giving with the receiving and putting the value on what you offer was something she needed to learn.

It’s been tough to meet people and become enthusiastic about what they do only to realize they can’t offer anything in return. Instead of saying no, she tries to find creative ways.

Another challenge is being true to your own ideas. She travels a lot so she thinks about finding sustainable means of transportation. When she takes up projects, she needs to be sure the project and the company align with her own values.

Defining success as Entrepreneur

The most important takeaway in her journey has been finding her own definition of success. We see a lot of entrepreneurs that define success as 5-6 figures a year. If that’s their value, that’s fine. Another value can be the type of clients you work with. Or being able to have certain things. Freedom for each person comes in different ways.

Defining what success feels like and then building our business around our idea should be our main goal. Does our lifestyle fit with our business?

Tigrilla watched some of her colleagues go on to create their own big companies. She admired them, but she admitted she never wanted to do that. It’s not the way she could see herself living her life.

Instead, she has a notebook in which she keeps an overview of her goals and updates them monthly. This helps her keep focus on what’s important to her.

Follow Tigrilla on her journey on Instagram and join Naturepreneurs Facebook group for inspiration and networking with the impact-oriented community.

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