Act: Inspiration

What Could Possibly Go Right?: Episode 88 Janine Benyus

October 17, 2022

Show Notes

Janine Benyus is the co-founder of Biomimicry 3.8 and Biomimicry Institute. She is a biologist, innovation consultant, and author of six books, including Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Since the book’s 1997 release, Janine’s work as a global thought leader has evolved the practice of biomimicry from a meme to a movement, inspiring clients and innovators around the world to learn from the genius of nature.

She addresses the question of “What Could Possibly Go Right?” with thoughts including:

  • The inspiration we can take from systems in nature for ourselves and communities
  • The value of a biomimetic approach to infrastructure development and business operations
  • The difference in designing systems for positive output, beyond simply net zero


Connect with Janine Benyus


Janine Benyus: We now are seeing ourselves as living systems and our communities as living systems. The willingness to sit down and to find in nature your model, measure and mentor; there’s a new openness to that.

Vicki Robin: Hi, Vicki Robin here, host of What Could Possibly Go Right, a project of the Post Carbon Institute, in which we interview cultural scouts, people who see far and serve the common good.

And my guest today is the wonderful Janine Benyus. She is an author, an innovation consultant, and a self-proclaimed nature nerd. She may not have coined the term biomimicry, but she certainly popularized it in her 1997 book, Biomimicry Innovation Inspired by Nature. Since the book’s release, Janine has evolved the practice of biomimicry, speaking around the world about what we can learn from the genius that surrounds us.

In 1998, Janine co-founded the world’s first bio-inspired consultancy, Biomimicry 3.8, formerly the Biomimicry Guild, 3.8 being 3.8 billion years, bringing nature’s sustainable design to 250 plus clients, including organizations like Boeing and Colgate, Palmolive, Nike, General Electric, and many more.

In 2006, she co-founded the Biomimicry Institute, mobilizing tens of thousands of students and providing those practitioners with the world’s most comprehensive bio-inspired database, Ask Nature, to use as a starting place. So join me in a wonderful conversation with Janine Benyus.

Hey Janine, welcome to What Could Possibly Go Right, and thanks for taking some time to be with us. There’s many things I love about you, many things I love about your work and one thing I wanna talk about right now is that you’re a systems thinker. You’re curious, not just about what makes nature thrive, how the gecko sticks to the ceiling and the butterfly makes its colors, but human systems and economic systems and social systems.

And so you’re thinking about how all of these might fit together. We have a design problem. You are saying, not a problem of substance, that our questions should not be, how can we control and extract for human benefit, but how can we learn from nature to benefit one another? You know how much I, and everybody wants this to be how humans inhabit the earth.

This may be phrased wrong, but one question I have is, where is biomimicry winning per se, beyond projects to whole systems? I’m also wondering what clues biomimicry has for pandemics. Did you watch the last two years shaking your head and going like, There’s a better way to address this?

And another question is, do you think about the social and political systems? Does bio have something to offer nations that still solve our problems with shock and awe? So help us, Janine, to turn our attention toward what is life affirming, even as all around us, it seems to be going toward denying and destroying.

So tell us what you see emerging. What could possibly go right and over to you.

Janine Benyus: What a fabulous question. I’m a fan of not shock and awe, but flock and awe really, that’s what I’m hoping your question is about. Biomimicry has been my life for the last 30 years, almost 25 years ago.

The book came out, but I started collecting for it before. It was my sixth book and my other books, I’m a natural history writer and I wrote about ecosystems. I wrote about communities and how well they work. And then I thought, shouldn’t we learn from them? And so I found people starting to do that. I wrote this book and then very quickly, very surprisingly to me, I went back to write my next book, but the phone started ringing and it was companies, municipalities, inventors, design firms saying, Could you bring a biologist over to the design table and help us?

And I said, Well, yeah, I don’t do EPA stuff. I’m not gonna count the dead fishes and frogs, but upstream in the design challenge, that would be interesting to tell you how life works and then see if we could redesign things along those lines. And that’s what started our company, which at that point was called Biomimicry Guild.

Now it’s Biomimicry 3.8. So we’ve been doing this for 3.8 billion years of good, good ideas and we’ve been doing this now for about 25 years, and I always felt like I was, when we would bring in biological living systems models into these big corporations, sometimes it was a stretch. We had internal champions to get us the contracts to come in.

You know, people were highly skeptical, so to bring Mother Nature into some of these halls of power, it was an honor, but it was difficult and there was skepticism. And now 25 years later, we’ve been walking towards this horizon and I feel like this horizon is now walking towards us, and it’s all these people now lined up on that horizon, walking towards us and saying, Tell me again how the natural world works.

That’s what’s possibly going right, is the fact that we understand ourselves as living systems. We understand our organizations, our communities as living systems. That was not a given 25 years ago, we were still in that machine metaphor. And now we understand ourselves as living systems and we also have developed a worldwide, or at least when I’m centering myself in western industrial culture, and I do remedial biology for us.

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So I’ll say that. So, we now are seeing ourselves as living systems and our communities as living systems and finally realizing, hey, there are living systems out there that are 3.8 billion years in the making. They’ve learned how to live here gracefully on this planet over the long haul.

So the willingness to sit down and to find in nature your model, measure and mentor,  there’s a new openness to. In short, people are just much more willing to look to the natural world for their strategies, their solutions in nature as you know, consulting nature as guide for how shall we live here and the rest of the nature I should say.

I see that as an inflection point. I see that as a change because I’ve watched the resistance fall to absolute welcoming and, and how else can we do this? How else can we bring these natural, these living system principles to the rest of our company? So during the pandemic, we thought just like every other company and we have a company, a for profit consultancy, and then we have a nonprofit, the Biomimicry Institute.

And now we have a university center where we teach a Masters in Science and Biomimicry. All three of those organizations, we assumed we’d have to do emergency, you know, furloughs and whatnot. And the opposite has happened. So during this last couple years of the pandemic, our project work has tripled, our funding has doubled.

The number of people signing up for the Masters of Science and Biomimicry has increased enormously. So there’s definitely something going on and the work that we’ve been doing, you know, we have product design as one of our verticals where we look at reducing material use and reducing toxicity and reducing energy using how we design a product, how we manufacture it, how we distribute it.

We try to do biomimicry at the level of form and process and ecosystem, but we also have a built world of practice. That’s what’s really taken off. So it’s biomimicry at a systems level. So we are designing everything from, you know, and we work with an architecture firm, HK and an engineering firm, Jacobs Engineering and a modeling firm, uh, ESG.

And what we design, we are designing everything biomimetically from a building and its site all the way up to a city or even a region, and what we’re asked is what would be what? What’s a biomimetic building? What’s a biomimetic district? What’s a biomimetic city? And the answer for us is that it’s a city that performs as well as the healthy ecosystem next door, as well as that wild land.

In other words, we look and say, What if the city wasn’t here, what kind of forest would it be? What kind of prairie would it be? What kind of grassland or steppe? When we say performance, we mean what? What kind of beneficial flows would this ecosystem be producing?

Because ecosystems are generous, right? And can our cities be as generous as the ecosystem next door? And then we say, Well, let’s actually measure. They say, Well, how do you know a healthy ecosystem? The way you know it is by what it exhales. In other words, I live here in Western Montana and, and I’m in the Bitterroot Valley and I’m surrounded by wilderness and there are these huge canyons of 27 canyons crashing rivers coming down.

I look up at those mountains and I’m constantly seeing an exhale of goodness. Those wild ecosystems produce cleaner air. Air comes in and goes out cleaner than when it came in. Water comes out cleaner than when it came in. Wildlife pours into the valley. We’ve got all this goodness, right, that we’re living in, we’re basking in.

The question we’re asking is that what are we doing in return? Like do we return that favor? So a biomimetic city would be one that the watershed is better off because we’re there because we’re giving away. We’re producing wildlife support. We’re sequestering carbon, we’re cycling nutrients. We’re cleaning the air and sending it downwind cleaner.

We’re cleaning the water and sending it out cleaner than it was when it came in. What if we task ourselves through design, through aspirational goals and through design to produce ecosystem services? All of them, you know? And so that’s what we’ve been doing for the last 10 years.  We’ve been playing with this idea.

And then finally, now we’ve actually gotten to the point where we have a very, very sophisticated ecological model. Which allows us to go into a reference habitat, measure it for the goodness that it’s producing per acre, per hectare. How much clean water is it producing, how much water is it storing, how much cooling is happening, how much noise is it buffering?

And then we go to the built environment site. And we do our measurement there, and you’ve got the current performance of the built site, which is usually not as high as the ecological performance. And then with design, you try to try to close that gap so that over the years your site becomes functionally indistinguishable from the wildland next door.

It’s incredible work. It changes everything about how people design. We’re asking the buildings and the infrastructure, the roads, the sidewalks to also produce ecosystem services as well as planting trees and green roofs. So we’re saying if you want water storage on your site at the same level as the wildland next door, you have to store this many gallons per year.

How are we gonna do it? We’re gonna do it with green roofs, with blue roofs, with rainwater harvesting, with permeable pavement. We’re gonna take out the parking lots, put in permeable pavement. That’s one ecosystem. Then you’ve got carbon sequestration. You’re gonna put mass timbers in the building, you’re gonna do landscaping that is very different, that has functionality to actually sink and store more carbon. You’re gonna put biochar on, you’re gonna do all these things in the building and the ecostructure. And then added up to get to that level of ecological performance.

And you know, when we first started this, it was an aspiration. It was an idea. But now we’ve got a, we’ve got a group of companies, we have Microsoft, Google, Ford. It’s doing all their buildings now. Like this Kohler interface. It started with Interface, you know Ray Anderson’s company? Yeah. Aqua Fill. There’s a university campus App State, and it’s a learning cohort and, but these companies are, they are measuring, they’ve already done the measurements and they’re starting to build in these ways.

So if you can imagine things like, the mushrooming data centers, the things that we build, and we build again and again and again. If we get those right so that they’re actually contributing to the neighborhood that they’re in, it’s not a, not in my backyard. It’s please in my backyard. How do we do that?

So if we can change that template for City of the Future or the data center of the future, and then that gets built again and again and again and gets improved upon, people say, Well, you know, that’s what’s that gonna do for an ecosystem if just one building and their site do this positive production of ecosystem services.

Well, that’s where it starts. That’s not where it ends, because already these companies are starting to go to some of the other companies in their watersheds and say, Would you like to sign off on this? Would you like to do this? And then the next, the next thing that the company says, Okay, what can I do?

Could I mimic natural systems with other lands that I touch? And it turns out that we, we touch a lot of lands. These companies, these municipalities, they, a company for instance, touches a lot of land in its supply chain. So what if you do agricultural forestry, fisheries, you change the management of those so that you’re deliberately trying to support habitat to cool the environment to help feed pollinators.

Like, what if you put that who you buy from part of the contract, suddenly that plume of goodness, you’re starting to pull that from your supply chain. And then companies start to say, Well, how else can we do it? How many employees do you have? 155,000. They have backyards, they have school yards.

What if we did a program to produce positive ecosystem services on those? What other lands do you touch? All the customers that you have. So this is one of those fractal things, Vicki, where change, change something, you know? And what you’re really changing at heart is not a design. You’re changing how we think of our as a human species, what our job is, what our role is.

Whether we can get welcome species in the watersheds where we live. It is a joyful thing to be at a design where people are trying to figure out how to do good and give it away beyond their borders. It’s just a new way of thinking for us. You know, that’s, as Donella Meadows taught us, it’s that worldview shift.

That’s the biggest leverage, right? That’s where Bioindustry is going.

Vicki Robin: I can see it. I think where my heart is right now is that I am. You know, some Fridays for the Future teenagers in my community went to the city council and they got a declaration of a climate emergency. Out of that, the city council has appointed a group of people.

I mean, I live in a burg. I don’t live in some big place, but it’s an island. I think an island is a perfect container to think in systems, and so we’re working. And I’m trying, I’m encouraging us to think, not in terms of a solar array here or an electric police car there, but to think of us as an ecosystem that we actually, we have streams underneath everything.

We’re on a hillside, this town, and so the water’s flowing underneath the surface and sometimes coming up, you know, so we have some swales. And there’s a couple streams that you know, so to think about this in almost like a permaculture way, like, like there’s water flowing through a system. How do we capture and store that water in the soil in cisterns?

How do we install gray water so that our sewer treatment plant isn’t processing water that it shouldn’t be processing, but we just think about everything going down in there. This isn’t about me, but I’ve started getting a consultant right now.

I’ve been advocating for a city farmer and it’s just sort of a weird idea. But a farmer is somebody who thinks whole systems, you know, they can repair the machinery, they can feed the chickens, they plant the garden, they fix the roof, they take things to market. A farm is a whole system. So we could call it, the sustainability manager, but that wouldn’t be sexy, so we call it a city farmer.

Just to take a look at, Where could we plant gardens? Where could we plant orchards? Where could we pollinate systems, bee corridors and exactly what you’re saying. My excitement is I’m gonna send this interview to my community, because my excitement is, can we imagine ourselves as a human settlement in a forest?

I live in the northwest, you know, I live on Whidbey Island, we’re a human settlement in a forest. Little cabins in the forest. We’re not a town that’s eating the forest. And we still have farmland, and it’s so precious, it hasn’t been developed yet.

So anyway, I’m just saying that it’s just so transformational that we’ve been hacking away. I mean, it’s almost like in social movements, talk about intersectionality, the realization that there is force that’s bearing down upon us. That’s bearing down upon people of color and women and ecosystems and, wait a second, we’re all responding to a pressure that we’re now being able to name. Yes. You know, whether you call it capitalism or the financial system or whatever you call it, we know that it’s a unitive course.

Janine Benyus: We know it’s broken at this point, and I think that there’s a desire to heal what is broken. That’s something that’s ubiquitous in life. To lean into what is wounded and to heal it. I do sense us doing that right now. I mean, your whole community, the way you’re thinking and you’re thinking of yourself as a community in a forest. That’s the dream actually. And this is where 10 years ago this work came from, I was flying in Zulu, Montana, which is a town in the middle of, I mean, I’m south of that in the Bitterroot, but it’s in the middle of a wilderness area,

I was flying over wilderness. Just like you come into Whidbey and you look down at those trees and you go, you just know that there’s fragrant air and you know that there’s bird song and sparkling waters, and then you fly into town and it all ends.

I look at those maps we have where you have the gray zones, which is where development is, your houses in the forest, and then the forest, and why are we different? Why are we functionally not functioning like that? The dream was that someday I will fly in and it may look different than the wild land next door, but it’ll be producing the same amount of goodness.

And what it took was that thought. Of saying, why are we a sacrifice zone and why are we taking so much from those wildlands, but getting nothing back. And then another, another time that I had this kind of aha was I had been invited down to Costa Rica to this eco development that they were just starting.

It was a young group of people and they were amazing people. Amazing. And they were trying to pull the best of the best into this development. We were looking at this map and it had a Mylar covering on top of it,  a wax crown and they were saying, Here’s where it’s gonna be. And it was in the middle of this protected rainforest.

And they said the neatest thing about this development is, and they started to draw these arrows and they literally said like, there’s gonna be all this wildlife coming in, and then the water that comes in is super clean and they start drawing these arrows into the community from the wildland. So I asked for the wax pencil and I said, And what’s going out?

And they said, That’s the beauty of it. Nothing is, And they drew circles like it’s all gonna be, we’re gonna self sustain ourselves, we’re gonna take care of in here, we’re gonna clean everything ourselves. Right. And nothing will go out. I said, Why not? Why do you assume it’s gotta be a negative thing that goes out? Right?

And I started to draw these arrows and I was like, What if there’s more wildlife that gets produced? The pollinators travel and they keep on going and they have a place to be. You know, there’s all this clean air and cool water coming out. So that’s our next step. Net zero is what? And believe me. I work in a lot of places where they’re far from net zero, right?

So we want people to get to the place where they’re not producing any bad, but they can’t stop there. We’ve to cruise right by net zero and go to positive. Yeah. And or leap frog to positive because you design differently when you’re designing. In other words, say in your community you wanna do community gardens, but if you decide that you’re going to produce excess food for the communities next door, you do it completely differently.

I mean, it’s an aspirational goal, let me tell you. I mean, forests in your part of the world are amazing what they can do, right? And so it’s like, wow, How did they keep things cool when this is more in, you know, places we work like in Georgia where it’s these hot and dirty factories, right? They’re factories. We’re doing this with factories. We call it Factory as a Forest. That’s one of the things we look at big old factories, and they’re big old parking lots, right?

And people are in there and it’s hot and it’s dirty. This is where the social stuff comes into, because when we’ve done this with companies and said, Okay, how, how can you make your plant, you know, and sometimes these are, I mean, we’re working on the Ford plant right now. It’s 4,200 acres. Yeah, it’s the place they’re gonna be making batteries.

In Tennessee and Kentucky, we have those two buildings we work on, or two sites. They’re, they’re huge sites. And you know, the people in the factory that we bring folks out and bring ’em to these reference habitats where they’re, it’s lovely, you know, you wanna picnic there all day, say, this is gonna be what your, what your site should feel like.

And they say, What about inside? What about inside the building? It’s hot and it’s dirty. Can we have the coolness? Can we have the fresh air in the building? Right? So suddenly, uh, wellbeing is both inside the walls and outside the walls. Right? Why not? Right? And then the the other social things you asked about Kate Raworth. We’ve put the donut and the citrus. We call it the citrus because we have the social wedges are in the middle and we’re trying to fill those wedges with good.

So in other words, asthma rates will go down and healthy lungs will increase, right? Noise levels will quiet. There’ll be more quiet areas, there’ll be cooler areas. Heat island effect will not affect as many people, right? And these new jobs that are created, of course, there’s lots of plants that are planted in this process, and there are new jobs.

When you talk about the urban farmer people, if you’re putting trees on balconies and on top of rooftops and in the parking lots and you’ve got bio soils and you basically have a permaculture kind of a setting, who puts all those in? We say it’s gotta be local people. It’s gotta be local green wealth, not just green jobs.

Green wealth. You’re indulging me. You can tell how much I love this work. No, it’s because it’s exciting. There’s a new field of design, we think called design for ecosystem services, and that means there’s a whole lot of new kinds of jobs and one of the ecosystem services in the list of 21 is  food provision.

That’s what ecosystems provide for us. They provide food, so food provision, so all of those community gardens, those rooftop gardens that weren’t there before, you know who, who runs those? Who, who is, who’s doing the nursery work to create all those forests that weren’t there before? All that afforestation on that site, right?

If you tie a social good to that and make that part of the plan, I think it will change communities around these places on a social level as well.

Vicki Robin: Totally. Yeah. You mentioned permaculture, and I keep thinking one of the principles is the problem is the solution. So when you were talking about buildings, I was thinking one of the many things I can get upset about in terms of, you know, in terms of what we’re doing to the natural world is Bitcoin, and just the acres of servers worrying away that it takes the amount of energy that’s soaked by Bitcoin.

And if those buildings were designed for ecosystem services, so that not only did the sun provide all of the energy, so it’s no energy from anywhere. And they pump it out into the environment because they’re huge flat buildings, you know? I can see it now.

Janine Benyus: Yeah, and just adding that little thing of we’re gonna go above and beyond and not just meet our own needs. I say to these companies, the new civic gesture is not a sports stadium. It’s healthy neighborhoods that you help make possible.

So this power of place. I’ve been going through the Post Carbon Institute site. It’s amazing, and I think you’re right on with the power of communities to start the healing, the pixelated healing. There’s, this is the other thing I see when I talk about that horizon coming towards me. Were you at Glasgow? Did you go to COP this year? No. Very interesting.

You walk into Glasgow, off the plane, and every poster, every digital billboard, every bus kiosk has some sort of a poster about COP about the climate zone, and everywhere you looked, it was astounding because those pictures were not of wind turbines and solar cells, they were of nature. I was like, well this is interesting. I mean, I figured there’d be a shortage of green ink. Because so much greenery, so much talk of nature, positive of rewilding?

Whereas in other COPs, the word nature wasn’t even in the NDCs. Now it’s now is it everything they were talking about nature positive still to be defined, by the way, still to be defined. Nobody really knew what it was. What I’m saying. It’s a signal. There was a signal, and it was very clear, I was with my managing director and I said, Nicole, what do, what do you notice?

She goes, green everywhere, it was Glasgow, it was in November. It was gray, but all of our dreams were there on display. What we’re longing, and I heard a lot about pledges to carbon offsets to buy pieces of the Congo and keep the party going while we ask Mother Nature to, there’s a lot of that, but there’s enough of us watching now, tracking that to say it cannot just be sort of buying, what are they called? I’m K through 12 Catholic and now I’ve forgotten indulgences. You would buy indulgences, so you gotta get away with stuff.

But my indulgence here, that’s how I see the carbon offset. So not that the Congo doesn’t need protecting, it does.  but this idea that will take care of our places where we’re actually living, our settled landscapes, and that will take responsibility to actually be as biomimetic as we can and try to perform like wild land next door where we’re working and where our employees and our customers are living and working, that there’s a lot more human skin in the game there than there is when you buy an indulgence for something far, far away.

Vicki Robin: Right. Yeah. I’ve been involved in relocalization for so many years. It just seemed to be where I could put in my oar and actually get through the water a little bit, So I find what you’re talking about so heartening.

Things like Transition Towns and all the good, sweet local efforts; three, five people getting together to do something. I’m hearing too that, it’s almost like the promise of movements, the valence can be of this net positive that it’s not just holding the line, which we have to do. But there is a context of net positivity that is, is is sort of inherent in our world as it is today, everything is, if you could say is yearning to contribute. Every element of life is yearning to contribute to the vitality of life and it is being blocked. So it’s like unblocking and, houses don’t necessarily have desires, but maybe the wood that’s in my house has this, like, how can I get back to being the contribution I once was…

Janine Benyus: I mean, I think we’re tired of being aliens on the planet.

Vicki Robin: Totally. And to just feel, I mean, every day that I have to throw away a piece of plastic, I mean like, no, I don’t wanna do that, But I can’t keep… I’ve had piles of plastic in my house just to keep it out of the landfill, but as soon as I die, it’s going there anyway.

So it seems like so much about sustainability has been less bad. Yeah. And so this idea that it can be, we can design to be a blessing on this earth.

Janine Benyus: Yes. That everything we make is soil amendment, you know, we give back, right? We give back. And what we’re finding with these design teams is once you give them, and this is like you’re sitting there with the engineering team that does parking lots, you know, and the people who do the landscaping, which is usually just turf, you know, just turf, that’s pesticide, you know, and herbicide death. Right? So this is a big change. You know, to say, Well, we have this nutrient cycling aspirational goal and we don’t want any, you know, we did this 140 acre school district, in Lancaster, in Virginia, and there’s a tributary to the Chesapeake.

And so it was really important that nitrogen not flow into that tributary to the Chesapeake, and it was important that we have those cycling services on our site and how can we make that happen on other sites nearby? By virtue of us doing it and demoing it. So that school that normally was gonna be just a parking lot school, flat old rooftop, it changed and the whole site changed where everything was put, where the roads were put, because one of the goals was nutrient cycling and keeping the nitrogen from escaping the site.

And then of course you said, Well, we were not gonna fertilize then with nitrogen fertilizers. That’s the last thing we would do. I mean, once you start thinking that way, suddenly you’re not telling people not to do pesticides.

You’re telling people to do microbial healthy microbiologies in the soil so that you can have more carbon sequestration and more water storage, and how can we do that? And they just say, they just volunteer. Well, we can’t put pesticides in, so the main whole maintenance thing is gonna change and maybe turf isn’t the best thing we could be doing.

What else could we be doing? And you just sit back. Because humans do love to try to meet positive goals. Yes. It’s very, very interesting. It really is. And the thing that biomimicry offers is a systemic, like, it’s not, you’re just not taking carbon as your metric. You’ve got whole ecosystems you’re trying to mimic and all the things that it does.

We can’t be myopic about carbon the way we were myopic about energy or myopic about water. I’ve been in the green building movement now for about 30 years, and I’ve watched us spend 25 of those years focused on energy. Just energy, you know?

Now I’m like, can the building create niches in it so that birds can nest? Can we do that by design? Can every other brick have solitary bee homes in it? Or holes for, for solitary bees. If we’re gonna put a sea wall in, can we make it so that it calls in larval mussels or oysters and it’s mimicking what they love. So we create a living breakwater. Everything you look at, every design you look at, you try to collect all of these ecological benefits.

How many can we get from this design? It’s, yeah, it’s really something. I mean, we, we did a, the US Coast Guard building in DC and they were also wanting to do something with cleaning water. So we brought ’em to beaver dams and we brought ’em to places in watersheds where beavers have, you know, they have a dam and, and then that system cleans water and then downstream from them, another beaver might have another pond that eventually turns into forest over time as the beaver leaves.

So these patches of wetland that go down a watershed. They clean water really well. They’re just a perfect water cleaning device. So what wound up happening for that building was that they decided, decided to design the building, and you can see it from the air, it’s amazing, so that there are these, this sequence of green roofs that are all connected and they’re all different vegetative types that mimic what would happen.

Wow. Yeah., And then it comes out into this sparkling lake in front of the building and of course all the employees get to picnic on, you know, on these. So, but it changed the form of the building. It’s beautiful. Wow.

Vicki Robin: I am so inspired. I just keep everything you say. I’m just like, Oh, can we do that here? Can we do that here? Can we do that here? I hope that when people listen to this podcast, they have the same experience. Not how wonderful Janine is, or your project, your team is, but – Oh, I could do that here. I could do that here.

Janine Benyus: And the software program we use is open source. Yeah, so you can go to and if you’re interested, get information about joining Project Positive, this learning cohort, and we can teach you how to use that tool so that you can measure the ecosystem services being produced by the forest that you live in, right?

And then task yourself with that. I mean, it’s totally doable. You don’t need consultants to do it. You can start yourself, which is kind of cool as well.

Vicki Robin: Thank you so much, Janine. I could sit with you for hours and learn and be inspired, but I think we should cut it off here so that people can listen and then absorb. Okay, my friend, I wanna thank you so much, so much for this. Absolutely.

Vicki Robin

Vicki Robin is a prolific social innovator, writer, speaker, and host of the What Could Possibly Go Right? podcast. She is coauthor with Joe Dominguez of the international best-seller, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence (Viking Penguin, 1992, 1998, 2008, 2018). And author of Blessing the Hands that Feed Us; Lessons from a 10-mile diet (Viking Penguin, 2013), which recounts her adventures in hyper-local eating and what she learned about food, farming, belonging, and hope. Vicki has lectured widely and appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows, including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Good Morning America,” and National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition” and “Morning Edition.” She has also been featured in hundreds of magazines including People Magazine, AARP, The Wall Street Journal, Woman’s Day, Newsweek, Utne Magazine, and the New York Times. She currently lives on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound and is active in her community on a range of social and environmental issues including affordable housing, local food, and community investing. For fun, she is a comedy improv actress, sings in a choir, gardens, and nurtures a diverse circle of friends.

Tags: biomimicry, ecosystem services