butterfly resting on branch

The 2021 Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge Winners & Designs

The Youth Design Challenge is a program developed by the Biomimicry Institute that provides a remarkable opportunity for coaches and students from middle school to high school to share their creative ideas with respect to biomimicry and innovation in nature. This year’s event is complete and there were some truly amazing submissions from schools around the world. It’s inspiring to see a raft of young aspiring designers and ‘scientists’ using nature’s beautiful design to develop real-world solutions to serious issues.

Jump right to this year’s winners: https://biomimicry.org/youthdesignchallenge/#awardrecipients

For a complete breakdown of this ground-breaking event, see the 2021 YDC Handbook right here: Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge (PDF)

Innovative Inspiration From Nature

From mangrove forests to antelope horns to mud wasps and butterflies, students from 53 schools all submitted design entries into this year’s challenge. Even during COVID lockdowns and stay at home orders, these incredible students and coaches created a real challenge for the judging committee to select the winners for the 5 separate awards available.

  • Naturalist Award: For comprehensive research into biological models, thorough explanations of their natural history and strategies, and selection of appropriate organism models to inform the design.
  • Changemaker Award: For an innovative design proposal that could potentially move forward in future research and development and/or would have a significant impact if implemented.
  • Design Cycle Award: For perseverance in the iterative design cycle including exploration of multiple design ideas, using creative techniques to test potential solutions, and/or getting feedback from diverse experts and interested community members to inform design revisions.
  • Problem Definition Award: For systems thinking, thoroughness, and creativity in researching, identifying, and defining a problem to solve.
  • Storyteller Award: For an engaging presentation of the required application materials that creatively and accurately captures the team’s innovation process and learning journey.

To learn about registering for 2022 and reading all about the winners and their designs, roll over to the official website right here:  https://youthchallenge.biomimicry.org/.


Sustainable Packaging as the New Norm

Why aren’t there more sustainable packaging solutions on the market today? What are the inherent blocks to innovation? What does a zero-waste world mean to you?

In Episode 101 of Waste360’s Nothing Wasted! Podcast, Liz Bothwell interviews Reyna Bryan, president of RCD Packaging Innovation. Reyna is on a mission to transform supply chains and make sustainable packaging the norm. A 10-year veteran of sustainable packaging innovation, she believes we have the capability to produce goods and services without being destructive to our natural systems by designing packaging with the “end of its useful life” in mind.

RCD’s collaborative Redefining Flexible Films Workshop in 2020 was supported and attended by many brands like Mars, Whole Foods and PepsiCo, in both the consumer-packaged goods and waste management industries. The design-thinking style innovation workshop drew experts from across the flexible film packaging supply chain. The ten-month process resulted in a white paper outlining the barriers and opportunities in addressing the current problems with the petroleum-based flexible film as well as establishing a foundation of knowledge based on the diverse perspectives and expertise of the group.

NatuR&D was there and led an incubation project called Flexture. The project is looking for strategies in Nature’s packaging that manage moisture vapour so that the performance of compostable flexible film can be improved.

Nature has many strategies we can apply to flexible film. RCD and NatuR&D are collaborating this year to offer Biomimicry Webinars series to inspire packaging innovation. Each webinar explores a theme relevant to current packaging challenges. Workshops are designed for interdisciplinary collaboration and are tailored to the consumer-packaged goods industry.

Photo source: Ocean plastics on the beach at Caño Island Biological Reserve, Costa Rica ©Seth Galewyrick

VOC Transformation Elements

Nature’s Design For Atmospheric Restoration

Formaldehyde (HCHO) is a common Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) generated from human activity and industry. Ubiquitous in the indoor and outdoor environments of the Mexico City Metropolitan Area, VOCs react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) creating frequent ozone (O3) events that are hazardous to human and ecosystem health.

How can Nature re-create a healthy atmosphere?

Research supports the correlation between native plant-microbiome relationships and microbiome health, so NatuR&D designs a living machine to restore the ecosystem by boosting the soils in Mexico City’s metro area to process VOCs and NOx.

Presented at the March 2021 SPIE Conference on Smart Structures + Nondestructive Evaluation
Claudia Rivera Cárdenas, Anne-Marie Daniel, “How does Nature regulate atmospheric composition?: Formaldehyde removal from air,” Proc. SPIE 11586, Bioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication XI, 1158609 (22 March 2021); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2579919

Paper (PDF)
Video (Spanish)
Video (English)
Slides (PDF)