Lessons On Personal Sustainability, From Nature

Nature is an intelligent system that has learned to evolve and heal itself over the course of 3.8 billion years. Oftentimes, the solutions we seek for modern human problems can be solved with wisdom from the Earth. If we begin to look at natural systems as guide and mentor, as Janine Benyus suggests in Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, we can learn to find personal sustainability and healing. Within the boundaries outlined by these principles, nature flourishes. The following are the 9 principles of biomimicry, with corresponding tips on how to create the conditions conducive to life, according to nature.


tumblr_mqq4ivpL641st5lhmo1_12801. Nature runs on sunlight

Light is a basic need of living beings. To support our own lives we need an abundance of sunlight daily. Direct sunlight is essential for stabilizing our mood, sense of well-being, for  orienting to place, and also for the lifeforce of plants we put into our bodies. To be truly healthy, humans need lots of time supported by nature, like fresh food from plants, sun breaks instead of smoke breaks, and time to soak up nutrients from the sun.


tumblr_mx3trrzUOJ1st5lhmo1_12802. Nature uses only the energy it needs

Nature is an efficient system. Likewise, the more energy we waste, the more we hinder the healing process. We can use our energy efficiently in the pursuit of living well by concentrating time at work to be more efficient instead of investing in longer work hours, commuting and engaging in physical labor on the job (instead of doubling up on time at the gym), spending more time regenerating. This means working less, spending less, processing less, and spending time regenerating.


color-correct-coffee3. Nature fits form to function

When you’re eating, eat. When you’re relaxing, relax. When you’re on your smartphone, be with your smartphone (but not too often!). When you’re exercising, exercise. When you’re playing with your kids, play with your kids. When you’re connecting with your loved ones, connect with your loved ones. When you’re working, work. Each activity, in balance, serves a specific function in our lives.


tumblr_mvyxwqmRrn1st5lhmo1_12804. Nature recycles everything

Earth is a finite system, and though it is vast, it cannot match our human rate of processing natural resources and waste. Waste is a valuable resource in natural systems, and for humans. Difficult emotions can be recycled into opportunities for mindfulness awareness, environmental toxins can be recycled into a sense of urgency for healing the earth, and anxiety can be reclaimed for inspiration.


tumblr_n8gyuislNa1st5lhmo1_12805. Nature rewards cooperation

Earth’s systems have a remarkable way of working together to heal. Humans also work (and feel) better in relationship. Cooperating with nature is self-healing. When we see ourselves and our health as connected to a larger system, we find our place in an interdependent web of life. No man is an island; the more we come into cooperation with nature and each other the more we can survive and thrive.


tumblr_n9hyqfJavs1st5lhmo1_12806. Nature banks on diversity

Diversity in an especially beautiful feature of our natural world. No two places, plants, animals, or people are exactly the same. Nature uses this diversity as an essential ingredient for evolution, and, therefore, sustainability. Diversity in teams builds strength and vitality.  Explore perspectives outside of your comfort zone.



tumblr_mzgzbdYBht1st5lhmo1_12807. Nature demands local expertise

Sustainability is as complex as it is simple: stay in harmony with your land and body. We are already intuitive creatures who have access to all of our needs if we look within and listen to the wisdom of our bodies. Our departure from nature has removed us from accessing our senses. Returning to a relationship with nature would help us reconnect with our ability to intuit what our bodies need to stay healthy. Eat local, buy local, invest in your community, plant roots.


tumblr_mvyx8txG0p1st5lhmo1_12808. Nature curbs excesses from within

Live like Goldilocks: just enough, not too much. We all need work, food, sleep, sex to stay healthy. But in excess, everything becomes toxic.





tumblr_msueg2zH6y1st5lhmo1_12809. Nature taps the power of limits

You can only do so much in a day, a year, and a lifetime. Set reasonable goals for yourself. Limit yourself to how much time you spend on each activity, and you may find that the smaller amounts pack in more productivity. Accepting and embracing limitations of modern life is a lesson in personal humility, an important understanding for humans to be able to relate with the vulnerability of the environment. Learning to embrace death and impermanence is a powerful teacher in learning how to adapt to the environment, and how to explore the possibilities of transformation. Let nature lead the way.




Benyus, Janine M.  (1997).  Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.  New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.

Lisa E. Rome, MA is a writer, facilitator and sustainability consultant living in Boulder, Colorado. She teaches individuals and conscious organizations how to thrive as living systems. She is committed to simplifying the big picture of sustainability into bite-size pieces with everyday actions, helping others understand their own impact on the planet, and how they can transform personal and organizational daily practices to contribute to healing themselves and the planet.

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