What You Need To Know About Biomimicry

Biomimicry is defined as the “practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges.” The airplane, for example, was modeled to resemble the shape of a bird with the hopes that engineers could mimic a bird’s aerodynamic capabilities.  In today’s world, humans are constantly turning to nature for inspiration; looking to the mouths of mosquitos to create a less painful needle, or to spider webs to develop material that is lightweight but stronger than steel, much like the fibers of the web. The beauty of biomimicry is that in most cases it also creates for a more sustainable solution to the problem someone is trying to solve. Here at Okeanos we also turned to nature for the perfect packaging solution, the egg. Eggs hold baby chicks, turtles, or even alligators until they are ready to break free. Then once the egg hatches the shell simply breaks down into the earth and the cycle starts over. Comprised of approximately 97% calcium carbonate, we had our solution! This is just one of many packages found in nature that we plan to replicate.

However, it’s important to note that sometimes biomimicry can have negative consequences. For example, plastic bags, while designed to carry groceries, unfortunately resemble jellyfish when they end up in the ocean. Turtles, which feed on jellyfish sometimes ingest the bags, leading to intestinal blockages and ultimately starvation.  Another example of negative biomimicry is when a company finds a solution to a problem inspired by nature but uses unsustainable methods to produce it. If a company wants to replicate the spider web structure to create a strong and durable material but chooses a material that has a large carbon footprint, then it becomes a larger problem than solution.

The idea behind biomimicry is to take what exists and use it as inspiration, but without a toll on the environment. At Okeanos we use a naturally renewable resource, calcium carbonate (stone), we return the stone back to land to be reused, we source the stone locally, and the stone speeds up production while conserving energy all to maintain a small carbon footprint. What we do here can sometimes sound complicated, but we are really just following nature’s lead!

Everyday Items Re-Imagined With Stone

We often hear about the dangers of plastic straws to the environment and to our precious aquatic life. In response, many countries around the world have enacted bans on plastic straws and several companies have come up with a host of new products to replace them. However, solving the world’s plastic straw problem will simply be a drop in the bucket compared to the enormity of the world’s overall plastic problem. At Okeanos, we believe in approaching the solution to plastic pollution from all angles. Each piece of plastic that finds its way to the ocean, no matter its shape, is detrimental to the environment, whether it’s a straw, cup, container or bottle. However, the focus has been primarily on straws and bags, and plastic bottles have been all but forgotten. 

Did you know that over 200 billion bottles of water are purchased each year? That’s one million water bottles purchased every minute of every day. Plastic water bottles are a popular way to transport water, whether as a convenience, or to provide essential water in an area where freshwater sources are few and far between. Unfortunately, the majority of these bottles wind up in landfills, constituting the largest amount of plastic waste by weight (36% more than plastic cutlery, and 88% more than straws!)

Overflow of waste in landfills and the large amounts of plastic runoff into our ocean are the main factors contributing to our ocean plastic problem. To combat this, meet our newest bottles, Made From Stone!

Made From Stone bottles are designed to break down in landfills, creating more space, and allowing their main component, calcium carbonate, to break free, drop to the bottom of the pile, and be re-used by the earth. If we can replace the plastic water bottles around the world with bottles Made From Stone, we could reduce the amount of plastic in the environment, and consequently in landfills by over 50%!   Okeanos is working toward replacing all different types of plastic packaging. If we make more sustainable choices with every product we use or buy, we’ll be able to make an immediate, measurable impact on our planet.

Talking Trash With Danni Washington
Our Newest Scientific Advisory Board Member
Danni Washington is a celebrated science communicator, television host, and the newest member of our Scientific Advisory Board. The recipient of numerous prestigious STEM awards, founder of a non-profit organization, and the first African-American woman to host her own science television series, Danni has dedicated her life to education and conservation. When she’s not working, scuba diving or paddle boarding, you can catch her as a correspondent on Mission Unstoppable,  a weekly CBS series with host Miranda Cosgrove.

On a rare free afternoon, Danni sat down with us for a brief interview about her accomplishments, current projects and why she’s excited about Made From Stone.   

  • What is your first memory of the ocean and what inspired you to pursue this field? 

My first memory of the ocean was with my dad at the beach. We went often. We were walking along the shoreline on Miami Beach on this quintessential Miami day, beautiful sunshine, the water was bright turquoise. We spotted a school of minnows, and I happened to have a bucket with me. We managed to capture a couple in my bucket so I could look at them up close for a few seconds. I just remember that feeling of fascination and wondering what else could be out there under the waves.  Of course,  we released the minnows quickly back into the water, but having that spark of curiosity start when I was really young has fueled me all the way to now.

  • Of your numerous projects, nonprofits, and educational programs, is there one that you’re most proud of?   

It’s really difficult to pinpoint what I’m most proud of. I’m proud of the fact that I reached the goal that I set out to achieve when I graduated from college – to host a national science TV show. In 2016, I hosted my first show on FOX network named  Xploration Nature Knows Best about biomimicry.  Being the first African American woman to host a science show in the US is definitely what I’m most proud of.

  • You star in and host two shows that focus on science, technology and innovation. During a time when science has come under attack, do you feel like it’s more important now than ever to get younger generations interested in science?   

I chose to become a science television host because I wanted girls who looked like me to see me on television and know that whatever they set their mind to was possible. I grew up without having a Black female role model to observe working in this space. That’s what made that goal very clear to me. Even at 21 years old, unsure of how to get there, I couldn’t find a roadmap or special college course that I took that spoke specifically to this field of science communications. I think it’s extremely important right now for role models to be visible to young people in this day in age where certain people in our society are constantly trying to invalidate science. It’s one of the only fields of knowledge we can depend on at this point because it’s based on fact, and follows specific methodology.

We’re first introduced to the scientific method in middle school. People often forget that it’s such a great roadmap for how to think about the world around you. It’s about looking at a situation and making your observations, asking the right questions, analyzing the research and coming up with your own conclusions. Then you have the opportunity to have an intelligent and educated conversation about the problem. We need more science-minded folks out in the world to help us – especially in politics. Many of our political leaders do not have a science background or refuse to gain an understanding about scientific information. We need scientists to be placed in a much higher place of leadership within our society. I think scientists and teachers need to be some of the highest paid professions in the world. They’re informing the next generation and helping us to perpetuate the human race. If we don’t think these things through, we’re going to eliminate ourselves. That’s what we’re seeing with climate change. The negative impacts are happening because of human behavior. We’re exacerbating the problem and we’re making it happen more intensely. We have to do everything in our power at this point to shift our path or we’re ultimately headed to a dead end.

  • As a science communicator, what would you say is the biggest challenge facing our world today? 

On a societal level, it’s about access to education. I think we’ve limited the amount of opportunities for people, not just in the US but around the world, to have free quality education.  If we had that, again, we’d have more opportunities for people to think critically about the world, and be inspired to learn more about it, instead of just extracting whatever they can take for profit. We are inextricably connected to Earth’s ecosystem now – we’re not on top of it, we’re not above it, we’re in it.

When it comes to the ocean, our most urgent need at this point is made up of two parts – it’s eliminating the amount of waste and trash we’re putting into the ocean because it’s ultimately coming back to us tenfold whether in our seafood or along our shorelines. The second part would be the amount of carbon going back into the ocean because of our carbon emissions. We need to rapidly sequester carbon. That comes in the form of replenishing our soil through composting, and better regenerative farming techniques. Then we also need to look at ocean farming – how can we create more carbon sinks whether that’s vertical farming where we’re growing kelp. We’re at a tipping point where the ocean can no longer handle this much carbon, so we need to figure out how to sequester it.

  • A large component of the work Okeanos is doing will center around educating consumers in developing nations. In your experience, what is the message surrounding pollution that resonates most strongly?

I think it’s all about making it personal. You have to show the direct connection to someone’s individual life. If you don’t, people automatically brush it off as something someone else will take care of – that they don’t have to personally be responsible. It’s a lot of Westernized culture that has created a lot of this trash due to our lifestyle. That waste ends up on the doorstep of underdeveloped countries that don’t have the means to dispose of it. It doesn’t make any sense.

  • What are some of the best examples of biomimicry that you’ve seen brought to life?   

I always go to my favorite example, the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington. It’s a six story Class A business building. It was built as a proof of concept to show the world that you can build a building that’s completely self-sustaining. Envisioned by Dennis Hayes, the first organizer of Earth Day in 1970, the entire building mimics a Douglas Fir tree, which is a species found in the Pacific Northwest. The top of the building is covered with solar panels, the building collects rainwater which supplies all of the bathrooms and sinks in the building with water. The floor is heated with geo-thermal energy. The building literally breathes, it’s operating on an automated system that has sensors that can tell whether or not it’s too hot or cold and will open and close the windows automatically. All of the toilets are foaming toilets that help produce compost for gardening. Why aren’t we setting the standard for any future building construction to follow these new principles?

  • What benefits does introducing more calcium carbonate to the oceans have?   

We are currently dealing with massive ocean acidification, which is changing the chemistry of the ocean. Animals who are dependent on the calcium carbonate in the water aren’t able to properly build their shells or exoskeletons because of the acidity of the water. By adding more calcium carbonate we’re helping to balance out that system and provide them with the ability to absorb more. These organisms are the base of our food chains, without them fish, or any other part of the ocean’s ecosystem will be able to survive. We need every single living creature in there to be thriving and growing.

  • What most excites you about the work that Okeanos is doing?  

It’s a giant stride toward a bigger solution. I understand that this is not the end of the line or the complete answer to our biggest challenge of plastic pollution but it’s getting us closer. I think we need a company like Okeanos to bring this technology and innovation to a wider audience. Not everyone is easily going to adapt to using reusables all the time, there are too many intricacies in our society and lifestyles that are not facilitating the transition of going completely reusable. To me it’s a great stepping stone (pardon the pun)- a bridge, to help get us to the other side of eventually living in a single-use plastic-free world.

Production In Lahore Has Started!

The beautiful coastline of Pakistan, bordered by the Arabian Sea is a hidden gem of a destination. One of the most popular spots is Clifton Beach, where families gather on Sundays for camel and horse rides, cold drinks and grilled corn. Many others travel to the coast to celebrate the New Year and relax in the clay-like sand. Sadly, many of these beautiful beaches have become overrun with plastic which has washed ashore or been filtered there from the cities. Which is why we are excited to announce Okeanos | Made From Stone is now beginning production in Pakistan. A step together in trying to combat plastic pollution.

With a population of over 200 million people in Pakistan, the amount of plastic production is naturally high, forcing the country to look for ways to combat the environmental threats that result from plastic pollution. By introducing Made From Stone technology in Pakistan, we are not only are able to source our own Pakistani stone, but also create jobs for the local community. Producing locally allows us to drastically cut down on the cost of the technology, and also cuts down on CO2 emissions by up to 65%. Calcium carbonate (stone) actually speeds up production efficiency thus lowering energy expenditure resulting in more savings, a lower cost and a lower overall carbon footprint. What is our stone capable of? We have compounds equipped for blown film, thermoforming, extrusion coating, injection, extrusion, and blown molding, production additives, and degradants and colors available now.  Establishing ourselves as the most efficient, waste-free and aesthetic plastic alternative available on the market today.

Rockstar Of The MonthIn this edition of Rockstar, we are excited to recognize María Angélica Restrepo, a member of our Technical Sales team, based in Colombia. María Angélica holds a Master’s degree in Plastics Processing, and brings 10+ years of experience in the field to our team. When she’s not working here at Okeanos, you’ll find her teaching classes at the University of San Buenaventura, and working as a Research and Development Engineer in Bogotá.

  • Tell us about your childhood in Colombia.   

I grew up in a beautiful city called Medellín, known as the city of eternal spring. It’s surrounded by rivers and mountains with unbeatable vegetation. It’s also one of the most innovative cities in the world – competing with New York and Tel Aviv. I grew up in a loving and close-knit family (this is my greatest treasure).  Having been a girl scout since I was 5 years old, this lifestyle heightened my sensitivity to nature, my environmental awareness, and taught me to be a responsible and self-sufficient individual. I learned to overcome my fears, promote my taste for gastronomy, and learned to make constructions with elements that nature itself gives us.

  • What inspired you to become an engineer? Why did you decide to focus on plastics?  

My father (who is also an engineer and an absolutely brilliant person) once asked me, “What do you enjoy most in life? I have always admired your creative ability. You have prodigious hands and everything you touch turns it into an artwork. You have an impressive ease with drawing and can spend hours painting, and love mathematics. Why don’t you exploit that talent?” Coincidentally that same week was career week, and I discovered the field of product design engineering. It felt as if that career had been invented for me. I completed my engineering degree in Holland at Delf University of Technology. I had teachers with the ability to inspire students with their knowledge and passion. Such as Luís Fernando Patiño, teaching the Materials class.  He encouraged us to delve deeper into each material family (plastics, metals, and ceramics). He opened my eyes to the infinite world of plastics, their properties, their malleability at certain temperatures the vibrant colors and textures they can be made into.  It’s like playing with Play-Doh, imagination has no limits. I was surprised by the versatility of plastic, but was seeing the negative impact it had on the environment. This later inspired me to find a smarter alternative to reduce the amount of plastic in our world while maintaining unique designs, colors, and structures.

  • In this issue, we speak to Danni Washington, a celebrated science communicator and our newest SAB member about her work getting young girls involved in STEM (the study of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics). As an engineer yourself, what advice would you give to those interested in getting into your field?  

It is not an easy world, but it is amazing. It allows you to look around with different eyes. It is a profession that challenges you every day and teaches you that the future is in your hands. It is a world that fills you with common sense, thirst for knowledge, and it is incredibly rewarding to see projects working and to know that you are improving the quality of life of for yourself and those around you. If you are creative and you can combine it with your passion for science, technology, and mathematics – do not hesitate for a second, you are in the right place. If I had a chance to choose what to do again, I would follow the same path, with the same stops and stumbles.

  • What made you want to become a professor, and what has been most rewarding about your experience as an educator? 

Juan Diego Ramos Bethencourt, my Professional Career Manager, called one day to say he had recommended me as a professor at the University of San Buenaventura. I was taken aback because I didn’t want to be a teacher, I wanted to focus on my master’s degree.  I decided to take this great challenge and it has been one of the best experiences and I hope to continue teaching for the rest of my life and to continue to share what I know with those around me.

  • What developments in the field of plastic engineering most excite you? 

All of the developments that challenge me and allow me to reach sustainable, replicable, and functional solutions (as is the case for Okeanos), are the most exciting to me.  Making products Made From Stone sounds impossible but not for us or our customers. We make the impossible possible, and it is one of my greatest challenges in my role as Technical Sales Manager of the Company.

  • How did you first hear about Okeanos? What inspired you to want to be a part of our mission? 

In a prior role, I was responsible for overseeing the Plastics Sector at OMYA Colombia. Okeanos and OMYA already had an existing relationship, and there was talk about collaborating on projects in different countries. One day, I was invited to meet with Okeanos, the most inspiring and passionate team that I have met in recent years. After receiving a sales presentation, I realized how inline their philosophy was with my passions and desires.  Now, I am living my dream, with my feet on the ground and in a place that feels more like family than a company.

  • What are the most difficult and the most rewarding aspects of your job?  

The most challenging part of my job has been managing to generate technical confidence remotely. Convincing our converters that our technology is Made From Stone and won’t damage their machines, and proving to them we have an unmatched technical team is always challenging.  Coordinating industrial trials under a protocol that works as a kitchen recipe with step by step processes without being physically in-office has been a great challenge as well. We have completed successful industrial trials in countries such as India and New Zealand.

This is just the beginning, and anyway, who said that good things come easy?

  • Who is the person that inspires you the most, and why? 

Definitely, my grandfather Kike. Although he passed in 2009, he was and still is my inspiration and life teacher. He was a creative and sensitive man, who drew and painted like the gods while sharing with me his most precious treasure – his colored pencils.  He instilled in me a love of art from a very young age. He had a great sense of humor, was full of generosity, a fantastic and unconditional friend, an enemy of injustice and lover of good food. I try to follow his teaching every day of my life. I will admire him forever.

  • What has been your favorite part of your Okeanos experience thus far, and what are you most looking forward to?  

When I met the team, I found a real family where nationality, gender, and sexual orientation didn’t matter. From the first moment I entered this friendly atmosphere, I felt safe and knew this was my dream. I hope  to continue being part of this growing family as we grow bigger and stronger, with all hopes that our Okeanos message will reach the most remote places on the planet. I dream of continuing to make the impossible possible.

Be The Change Our Ocean Needs

In Greek mythology, Okeanos (or Oceanus) was known as the primordial Titan god of the river that encircled the earth, believed to be the source of salt and fresh water.

We view the world’s ocean through the same lens – not as individual bodies of water that divide us, but one awe-inspiring entity that connects and fuels us all. Since everyone on earth relies on our Okeanos, it’s up to each of us to do our part to preserve and protect it. Our Made From Stone technology was designed with this goal in mind; to develop an immediate, scalable, and verifiable solution to the world’s plastic pollution problem, the biggest threat facing the ocean today.  However, our innovative technology is just one piece of the puzzle. Education and organized community actions are essential pieces needed to make global change.

We are rallying Mother Nature’s warriors to join us on our quest to save our Okeanos. Become an Okeanos Brand Ambassador today, and work with us to develop a community of creative, like-minded, ocean-loving visionaries who will help lead the charge against plastic pollution.  For too long, the world ha