PACKAGING THE FUTURE: Inspiration from Ants!

by , 10/01/10

sustainable design, green design, packaging the future, green packaging, ants, natural packaging, eco design, biodegradable packaging, ant carapacePhoto by Artchemist

Clearly the ant’s body has served it very well for millions of years, and as we all know, size isn’t everything. If a designer were looking to use the ant exoskeleton for inspiration, some of its other qualities might be more important, like the fact that it is highly breathable, with gases passing through the shell via spiracles (this is important since ants and other insects don’t have lungs, so this is how they respirate). At the same time, the chitinous outer layer is completely waterproof, so ants can get carried away in flash floods, fall into ponds, go for a swim to find food, or get sprayed off the patio and still find their way home later. Lastly, ant bodies are very biodegradable, and don’t take much energy to produce or maintain.

A tough, waterproof but breathable and totally biodegradable material, (in shiny black!) would make an ideal packaging for fruits and veggies (which need to breathe and are often kept in plastic containers which only hasten their demise) or prepared foods, or for high-end disposable plates or silverware. Any instance where you need a breathable container that keeps water out (cell phones? bags? trendy hats?) could be a use for a material with ant exoskeleton properties. This material would be made in a lab or production facility of course — not harvested from tiny ant bodies!

+ Packaging the Future

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick and author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life (St. Martin’s Press). A green living expert, she contributes to The Huffington Post and Mother Nature Network (

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  1. Packaging the Future: F... November 4, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    […] (coconut shells), tough-but-flexible protection (wombat butts) and light tensile strength (ant exoskeletons). Now it’s time to look at the softer side of packaging; after all, not all containers need […]

  2. erick October 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Reading this makes me feel kind of antsy…

  3. Natalie October 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Ants and bugs generally creep me out, but I have respect for the resourcefulness. If someone could create packaging with ant exo-skeleton properties, it would be really useful, not to mention, probably make them a lot of money.

  4. Yuka Yoneda October 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I’ve always admired ants too and think that most societies hold them in high esteem – remember the poem “The Ant and the Grasshopper”? I didn’t realize how cool their exoskeletons are though!

  5. Bridgette Meinhold October 1, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    i love biomimicry!

  6. Diane Pham October 1, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Great post. Ants are such an interesting insect!

  7. Jasmin Malik Chua October 1, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Love this, thanks for sharing!

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