Monday, November 30, 2015

South by Southwest Eco conference

Lily Urmann, the Green Labs Facilitator at the Sustainability Office shares her experience at the South by Southwest Eco Conference.

The South by Southwest Eco conference took place in Austin, Texas from October 4th-7th, 2015. I heard about this conference in an email from the Biomimicry Institute, because they were offering an entire Biomimicry track at SXSW. I applied for funding through the Sustainability Office to cover my student registration fee, and got a plane ticket to Texas with extra miles from a very generous colleague.

Biomimicry, the idea of innovation inspired by nature, is a relatively new field of science focusing what we can learn from nature rather than what we can extract from nature. After facilitating an Education for Sustainable Living Program class on the topic of Biomimicry last quarter, I have been constantly curious about the world around me. When I heard about this conference, I saw it as a way to learn more about the field and meet the people with big ideas for Biomimicry. I was most excited about being immersed in Biomimicry in a way that I have never been before; in workshops that brought new ideas to light, and keynotes that would inspire me.

All of the Biomimicry Institute founders were there, including Janine Benyus herself, the author of “Biomimicry”- and I got to meet her! Her keynote on the first day of the conference was one of my favorite events. The way in which she talks about Biomimicry is so passionate and beautiful, it would make anyone interested.

SXSW Eco was my first really professional conference- and it was so exciting to be in that environment. Every day there were incredible workshops including: “Beyond Biophilic Cities: Solutions Rooted in Place”, “From Metaphor to Metrics:Net Positive Business”, “Tools to Bridge Science, Design, and Discovery”, “Biomimicry Success Stories”, “Nature as the Epicenter of Innovation”, “Microbes and the Future of Agriculture”, and many more! Besides just attending workshops, I met and mingled with researchers, consulting firm professionals from the Biomimicry 3.8 company, and other motivated students working on projects nationwide.

The ideas and insight that I brought back after SXSW will continue to inspire me throughout this year and onward. I am currently writing a senior thesis on the case for and design of a Biomimicry minor at UCSC, and hope to create an online open-source model that other universities can use as a resource when implementing these ideas in education. After I graduate, I can’t wait to join the Biomimicry community, whose dedication and curiosity will continue to encourage me to grow and learn from my surroundings.

3D model of a insect model for a gear

Janine Benyus signing my Biomimicry Book 

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