The Biomimicry Life's Principles Explained

You may have been asked what’s your life purpose before, but have you ever been asked, ‘what is the purpose of Life? Life's purpose is to create conditions conducive to life. Simple, yet profound and long-lasting. 

What’s more interesting to note, is that there are some generic principles that are found consistently in just about every organism and ecosystem on Earth. And can, therefore, definitely be considered as winning strategies for surviving and thriving here. These are the Biomimicry Life’s Principles.

What are the Biomimicry Life’s Principles?

The Biomimicry Life’s Principles are a set of 26 strategies all organisms and ecosystems on Earth use for creating conditions conducive to life. They’re also a set of innovation principles that are beneficial to any organisation/design whether you’re focused on sustainability or not. The Biomimicry Life's Principles inform the Ethos and Measure components of biomimicry and are a tool for both ideation and evaluation.

Credit: The Biomimicry Life Principles - Biomimicry3.8

Biomimicry is the practice of learning from nature and then emulating what we find, and we do this by distilling the relevant principle from an inspiring organism/ecosystem - and then applying these within our designs.

They are abstracted from biological literature and translated into generic design language so that they can be usable by biodesigners and biomimics of our world. By incorporating these principles into an organisation’s design methodologies and system strategies, the resulting integrated strategies are inherently sustainable because they follow the same principles that allow life to thrive.

They’re one of the best Systems Thinking super tools you will come across.

The 6 overarching Biomimicry Life’s Principles

  1. Evolve to Survive
  2. Adapt to Changing Conditions
  3. Be locally attuned and Responsive 
  4. Use Life-friendly chemistry
  5. Be Resource Efficient
  6. Integrate Development with Growth

The History of the Biomimicry Life’s Principles

Life’s Principles are the result of the combined work of two decades of work by the biomimics, designers and biologists within and supporting Biomimicry3.8The origin of biomimicry Life’s Principles was a set of 9 principles described within Janine Benyus’s book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature (1997).

These original 9 Biomimicry Life's Principles were

  1. Nature runs on sunlight
  2. Nature uses only the energy it needs
  3. Nature fits form to function
  4. Nature recycles everything
  5. Nature rewards cooperation
  6. Nature banks on diversity
  7. Nature demands local expertise
  8. Nature curbs excesses from within
  9. Nature taps the power of limits

They then were built upon by dedicated individuals who synthesised key biological principles from the biological literature and then translated these into a generic design language. This work took a number of years and 5 iterations so far. Today, there are 26 Life Principles.

The Full List of All 26 Biomimicry Life’s Principles

Evolve To Survive
Replicate Strategies that Work
Integrate the Unexpected
Reshuffle Information

Adapt To Changing Conditions
Incorporate Diversity
Maintain Integrity through Self-Renewal
Embody Resilience

Be Locally Attuned and Responsive
Leverage Cyclic Processes  

Use Readily Available Materials and Energy
Use Feedback Loops
Cultivate Cooperative Relationships

Integrate Development with Growth
Self Organise
Build from the Bottom Up
Combine Modular and Nested Components

Be Resource Efficient (Material and Energy)
Use Low Energy Processes
Use Multi-Functional Design
Recycle All Materials
Fit Form to Function

Use Life-friendly Chemistry
Break Down Products into Benign Constituents
Build Selectively with a Small Subset of Elements
Do Chemistry in Water

What Makes the Biomimicry Life's Principles Worth Using? 

The Biomimicry Life's Principles are design lessons from nature. Based on the recognition that all Life on Earth is interconnected and interdependent, and subject to the same set of operating conditions, Life has evolved a set of strategies that have sustained over 3.8 billion years. The Biomimicry Life’s Principles represent these overarching patterns found amongst the species surviving and thriving on Earth.

Life integrates and optimises these strategies to create conditions conducive to life. By learning from these deep design lessons, we can model innovative strategies, measure our designs against these sustainable benchmarks, and allow ourselves to be mentored by nature’s genius using Life’s Principles as our aspirational ideals.

The power of these principles cannot be underestimated, and the gratitude that all biomimics and designers have for the people who distilled and refined them is great. If you are interested in their biological origin and the deeper theory behind them, we recommend learning this from Biomimicry3.8 and through their in-depth Biomimicry Resource Handbook – the original source of Life’s Principles teaching.

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PS - We too offer a Biomimicry Life's Principles short course here (with the Biomimicry3.8's blessing)

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