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Biomimicry and Green Chemistry Collide

Scott Cooney | Tuesday October 19th, 2010 | 0 Comments

We know that green chemistry works.  We know that biomimicry works.  Is there a possibility that the two crossing will create good things?  The more appropriate question may be:  is there a possibility it won’t?

Recently, Janine Benyus of the Biomimicry Guild and author of Biomimicry started doing business with John Warner, the father of Green Chemistry.  Together they’ve been solving some problems facing big businesses.  Just to start off with the fundamental question of why chemistry has not historically been green, Warner started the talk with two mind-blowing talking points:  first, most (if not all) universities do not require even one course of toxicology from chemistry majors.  Second, as a professor, he was the first to make Biomimicry required reading for his organic chemistry course.

Today they spoke together on a panel moderated by Joel Makower at the GreenBiz.com Innovation Forum.  Their thoughts on the innovation that has resulted from their collaboration were inspiring….

First off, Warner talked about a time he was approached by a paint company that asked him, “Who at your company has worked in the paint industry?”  He answered, “No one.  If we had, we would have made the same decisions you made, and we’d be looking for help.”  In this way, Warner has made ignorance an asset.  The key to innovation, he says, is getting outside our compartments and looking at things with an entirely new viewpoint.

Together with Benyus, the two have helped several California-based startups solve complex biochemical issues.  Benyus’s group found a way that bacteria were able to solidify their cell walls by producing a certain protein.  Turning that over to Warner’s group, they were able to help make a vaccine that didn’t need refrigeration.  The implications?  Medical facilities across the world no longer need freezers.

Chilling?  I know when she mentioned this, it sent shivers down my spine.  Similarly, they’ve managed to find out the process by which coral fixes carbon in the ocean, and use that to fix carbon coming out of smokestacks.  Cool, right?  It gets better–this product can replace Portland Concrete, which, because it has to be superheated for so long, accounts for 6-8% of ALL CARBON EMISSIONS GLOBALLY.

Look for this collaboration of sustainability change-makers to continue to produce some earth-shifting innovations…


Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill) and Principal ofGreenBusinessOwner.com


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