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Biomimicry Institute defines this term (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) as a "new discipline that studies nature's best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. Studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell is an example. I think of it as 'innovation inspired by nature.' The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. They have found what works, what is appropriate, and most important, what lasts here on Earth ? Like the viceroy butterfly imitating the monarch, we humans are imitating the best adapted organisms in our habitat."

Science writer Janine Benyus articulates nine principles in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature:

1.Nature runs on sunlight

2.Nature uses only the energy it needs

3.Nature fits form to function

4.Nature recycles everything

5.Nature rewards cooperation

6.Nature banks on diversity

7.Nature demands local expertise

8.Nature curbs excesses from within

9.Nature taps the power of limits