Socially beneficial, profitable products that restore or at least leave the environment undamaged (i.e. sustainable products) remain an elusive goal. Emulation of the inherently sustainable living world through biomimetic design potentially offers one approach to creating sustainable or, at least, less unsustainable products. In this article, one learns, however, that current approaches to biomimicry do not necessarily lead to such ends. Examination of research and practice reveals a reductive mindset that limits biomimicry’s applicability within the context of sustainable engineering. To remove this limitation, this article proposes a holistic view of biomimicry that goes beyond imitation of a few features of a particular organism. A holistic view of biomimicry involves incorporation of life’s general characteristics in design and application of these characteristics across multiple spatial, temporal and organizational scales of engineering influence. The article initiates the development of holistic biomimicry as a guiding framework for designers interested in utilizing biomimicry’s potential as a sustainable design tool.

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