Janine Benyus: "Life creates conditions conducive to life"

Another in a series of miniprofiles of sustainability-minded people who are working to reduce humankind’s footprint on the planet. They're "mini" not only because they're short, but because all the questions are 10 words or less, and the answers are requested to match. (Please, no counting.)

Janine BenyusJANINE BENYUS, 50, Stevensville, Mont. Cofounder, Biomimicry Guild; Author, "Biomimicry, Innovation Inspired By Nature"

What do you do? "I’m a biologist at the design table, helping innovators consult life's genius to create sustainable designs."

Green epiphany: "Asking the question, 'is anyone consiously trying to emulate the elegant, well-adapted, fit technologies of nature?' It was about 1990."

Green hero: "Rachel Carson."

A sustainability practice you've taken on: "I unplugged my printer completely, and I haven’t used it in about a year."

An example of greenwashing that really bothers you: "[After a burst of disgust,] using green to sell everything from Doublemint gum to a bank."

What don’t people understand about nature: "Water is at the center of every chemical reaction, and therefore should be the earth’s most precious gift."

A technology you’re most hopeful about: "Dye-senstitized solar cells. Thin film, very low toxicity, very cheap to make."

A bit of biologist’s wisdom: "Life creates conditions conducive to life."

Who was the first biomimicrist: "The first one we knew about, that we made famous, was Leonardo Da Vinci. But before that, most hunters and gatherers."

The one thing you wish everyone would just get right: "Being locally attuned and reclaiming the human right to idleness."

A question I should have asked you? I would love to have talked about asknature.org. The other thing is Innovation for Conservation.

What's that? "Asking companies that have bio-inspired products to donate a portion of their proceeds to sustain the habitat of the organism that inspired them, so we can preserve the wellspring of their idea."

Are we going to make it? "I think that some of us will squeeze through the evolutionary knothole, and hopefully bloom on the other side. But not all of us, and not all the organisms that we are now surrounded by" will make it.

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