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Smith, of Williamson County, said the possibilities are many with biomimicry.

“There’s a paint that mimics the texture of the lotus leaf,” said the enthusiastic Lipscomb student and interior design instructor. “It becomes self-cleaning with rain.”

‘So many secrets’

“There’s only one sustainable model you can look at, and it’s the natural world,” said David Oakey of David Oakey Designs in Georgia.

“We’re kind of messing it up — taking, making and wasting — just burning resources,” he said. “Nature doesn’t work that way.”

Nature thrives on diversity, while humans often try to make products that are all alike with no imperfections, said Oakey, who has consulted for Nike, Boeing and others.

The late Ray Anderson of Interface carpet in Georgia had put out a challenge to develop sustainable products several years ago.

Oakey’s designers, looking at leaves on the ground in woods, noted that they were haphazard in color and pattern. This was the spark behind developing carpet squares that were varied but also could form an appealing floor covering. If one was damaged, it could be replaced rather than replacing all of the carpet. And rather than gluing it to the floor, they considered a lizard, the gecko, which has hair on its feet and can stick to most any surface.

“That never panned out — not practical,” Oakey said.

But it did lead to using a sticky-note-like square to attach the tiles to one another. The weight of the product — gravity — holds the floor covering in place.

Old carpet is recycled into new along with other used materials, such as fishing nets and nylon.

“Top corporations are starting to look at biomimicry and get inspired by it,” Oakey said. “There are so many secrets nature has.”