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 carapace

Thus far in our Packaging the Future Series, we’ve looked at how plants (coconuts) and animals (Wombat butts) can serve as inspiration for planet-friendly packaging. But insects, with their tough, waterproof, breathable and totally biodegradable exoskeletons shouldn’t be ignored. Insects have been kickin’ it on this planet for over 400 million years and have outlived most other animal groups – even through major extinction events like the one that killed the dinosaurs! Even then humble ant can serve as a remarkable model for natural design brilliance – read on to take a look at these tiny titans’ incredible attributes!

sustainable design, green design, packaging the future, green packaging, ants, natural packaging, eco design, biodegradable packaging, ant carapacePhoto © Snap

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with ants; as a child, I spent much of my time in the woods, and unlike most of the other animals who would shy from my presence, ants never paid me any mind, crisscrossing the floor of my forest hideaways with neither interest nor acknowledgement of my existence. This of course made me admire them terribly, and when I learned about how they can lift 20 times their own body weight (actually some species can lift only 10, while others can lift up to 50), I knew my admiration was deserved.

I read up on how ants build their hills, how like the bees in my grandma’s apiary the queen ant breeds and others work, how they are one of the more ancient of the insects, and how successful they are. As reported on Wikipedia,Their ecological dominance may be measured by their biomass, and estimates in different environments suggest that they contribute 15-20% (on average and nearly 25% in the tropics) of the total terrestrial animal biomass, which exceeds that of the vertebrates…only a few large islands such as Greenland, Iceland, parts of Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands lack native ant species.” Yep, I was right as an eight-year-old; ants are cool, able to live almost anywhere, and have successfully moved about the Earth for 130 million years (mid-Cretaceous forward). And part of their success can be attributed to their exoskeleton.

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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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