Chemicals & Toxics

Taking materials to the next level with nature's designs and chemicals

Chemicals make up all of the stuff we interact with every day, from the plastic keys of a computer to the soap in the dishwasher. When Biomimicry 3.8's Mark Dorfman took the the main stage at GreenBiz Forum 2015, he wanted talked about chemicals and how every one of us are surrounded by them.

During the annual conference in Phoenix, Dorfman said that a material's functionality and sustainability ultimately comes down to its chemistry. While traditionally fabricated chemicals like polymers are all around us, Dorfman spoke more about the existence of natural chemicals.

"Chemistry is at the basis of what gives natural materials their characteristics and functionality," Dorfman said.

"That kind of flies in the face of a misconception that I think so many people have: that chemicals are man-made entities that contaminated an otherwise chemical-free world," he continued.  "Nothing could be further from the truth because nature is alive with chemistry."

Indeed, when you break it all down, the cells that make up our bodies are little more than complex collections of chemicals.

"Almost every single one of nature's materials are made of some combination of protein, carbohydrates and minerals, and depending on the material, other things thrown in there too," Dorfman said.

Dorfman then pointed out that understanding all of these materials that nature so readily creates could be extremely beneficial in the creation of new and efficient objects. Dorfman said that creating a database of natural materials' strengths and weaknesses would make creating new products more streamlined.

"Imagine if we had a library and we're working toward that  that associated every feature that we find of interest and of value in nature's materials,"  he said at GreenBiz 15.