The Essence of Sustainability

Biomimicry

MinimumMaintenance

What is left after you’ve peeled off the eco-groovy labels and unwrapped the post-consumer recycled-content packaging? Will the product underneath stand the test of time? Will the business you run survive the next recession? In a word, are they resilient?

Resiliency is all about being able to take the heat, stress, impact, pressure, market changes, etc., and be able to return to business as usual or else leverage what has been learned and adapt. Resiliency leads to quality, timeless products and long-term businesses.

If there is one thing that I have learned on this Ride the Talk cycling trip is that resiliency is at the heart of sustainability. On those days when the sun doesn’t come out from beneath the clouds, when the wind refuses to shift to a tailwind from a headwind, when the road shoulder only gets narrower and more shrapnel-ridden, when the hills get more abundant and steeper: these are the times I dig deep and rely on my resiliency.

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Resiliency is that gristly, unshakable part of a person that won’t give up. It’s that piece that always sees the bigger picture and hangs on until the bitter end. It’s that part that keeps plugging away, flexing and adapting as it needs to reach the end goal. I am quite sure that this part lives in my mind and soul rather than my body. It can’t be pointed to in a medical textbook but believe me, it exists. I wouldn’t be writing this dispatch after putting in 105 miles today if it didn’t!

When I was being pummeled by incessant winds over the past few days, I began to think about the cattails beside me. They have the incredible ability to sway, deform and bend yet remain strong and undamaged. This is resiliency in nature. Witnessing a palm tree dance in a hurricane leaves a lasting impression of the beauty and strength that is resiliency. A palm gives where and when it needs to give, tatters and frays where it’s inexpensive to repair, flexes and twists to cast off energy and returns to its original shape when the hurricane passes. It’s able to do each of these things with grace due to design that integrates diversity, redundancy and multifunctionality that has evolved over time.

How do human designs adapt and evolve under duress? Will a product or service design withstand a recession or the next fad? How about a business? Good, sustainable designs will and do if they are designed with resiliency in mind. Just like my resiliency will pull me through to my end goal to make it to Minneapolis.

Take a moment to reflect by watching these videos from the ride: Cattails and Resiliency

Cindy Gilbert

Cindy Gilbert directs MCAD’s Sustainable Design program. In this role, she fosters a culture of awareness and creativity through sustainable, innovative, and collaborative design. Gilbert has extensive research experience in the fields of climate change and polar ecology, and she has taught several courses and workshops in the fields of biology, sustainability, and biomimicry. Most recently, Gilbert served for over three years as the founding director of university education at the Biomimicry 3.8 Institute where she developed and managed all higher education programs, including the biomimicry professional certification program, the annual biomimicry education summits, the biomimicry affiliate and fellows programs, and the biomimicry student design challenges. Cindy is based in Montana.