Emiliania huxleyi + Great friends + Genius loci = Biweekly Biomimicry Challenge

I wonder, if Leonardo da Vinci or Mozart – provided they are still alive – would spend much time in conference rooms scribbling on whiteboards with dry-erase markers to generate their ideas? I hear, Mozart was often inspired by nature and complained that he had to think up his works indoors. Leonardo … well, we all know his take on this:

The eye, which is said to be the window of the soul, is the principal means whereby sensory awareness can most abundantly and magnificently contemplate the infinite works of nature.

If these great men spent their brainstorming sessions in board meetings, we probably would have never known such compelling masterpieces, as The Magic Flute and The Last Supper. To be truly successful, brainstorming sessions must move quickly and freely. There must be lots of laughing, positive energy, and seeding of new thoughts – be it in a group get-together or in a solitary space of your mind.

But this post is not about conducting proper brainstorming sessions: a functioning brain; some passion for a subject; a bowl of fresh fruit; and a line of trees, obstructing your view of the road, are all you really need. This post is about a challenge I got myself into, and you, my readers (yes, that’s right, all three of you!) will bear witness to my commitment.

I call it Biomeekly Challenge. Or Biomimicry Biweekly Challenge for grammar purists.

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Life’s Principles: Optimization vs. Resource Efficiency

Just returned from Biomimicry Education Summit in Cleveland, Ohio with a brand new treasure chest of inspiration and knowledge – ripe for exploration. Humbling connections, heartening speakers, challenging discussions.

I’m glad there was an activity with a Life’s Principles Circle, which turned out to be not a circle at all, but a linear pattern of nature’s strategies (Jawa, you would appreciate!):

Participants self-organized in four groups and arranged strategies into the most appropriate groups. Some new and modified ones emerged out of discussions.

I’m also glad this exercise took place, as many interesting debates were put on a table from representatives of many disciplines. There were some interesting discussions around the word “shape”, and what this term means in different professions. A debate around the term “recycle” was an expected one. Yes, nature truly recycles, but do we? Can we equate our understanding of “recycling”  to its phenomenon in “nature”?

I was particularly interested in the Be resource efficient  on 2011 version of Life’s Principles vs. Optimize rather than maximize on the old 2009 version, which I would like to discuss.

Top: Life's Principles version 2011 and Bottom: Life's Principles version 2009. Diagrams: Biomimicry Guild/Group

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Balanza Verde: Life’s Principles approach to product development

The last post was mainly about a possible long term-solution for the challenges presented by an existing waste management system in Lota, Chile. This approach will employ a well organized recycling centre – consisting of localized transfer stations – bringing formal and informal waste management sectors together and fostering education programs for the community.

But how do we get there? Let’s start collaborating with future decision makers of Lota – children.

Miki Seltzer, myself, Samantha Serrer, and Cote Casanueva with 8th grade students of Escuela Adventista and Professor Isaías Irán Barra Barra. Photo by: Camila Núñez Benítez

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Balanza Verde: Decentralized approach to waste management system of Lota

Students of Escuela Adventista walking through piles of garbage on one of the main streets of Lota. Children – the future of Lota – are concerned with the amount of waste on the streets of their city. Photo by: Isaías Irán Barra Barra

Centralized waste management system for decentralized city

Solid waste collection and disposal in Chile are the responsibility of municipal governments. Cities must meet certain national norms or standards set by the National Health Service, an autonomous administrative unit of the Ministry of Health responsible for administering and enforcing the national public health requirements. Since 1980, municipalities have been allowed to contract out the collection, transportation, and disposal of solid wastes to private enterprises.

HIMCE waste management truck – centralized system. Photo: http://www.himce.cl

Lota was able to secure a contract with Empresa HIMCE in 2008 for the removal of solid waste and its transportation to Coronel landfill 12.5 km from Lota. The contract between the municipality and the enterprise specified frequency and extent of coverage and types of waste to be collected (i.e., residential street waste, street cleaning, industrial services). These oversized trucks come into the city, collect unsorted garbage on streets that are paved and accessible, and leave to dispose of garbage in a landfill. This system breeds improper waste disposal by the citizens of Lota and the company; lack of community engagement in the cleanup process; and aggravation of the problem after the February earthquake, when even more people had to move into temporary housing.

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