How we make stuff

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What can we learn from different Creatures?

We’re not the only ones who make things: our fellow creatures have been producing stuff for millions of years. Can we learn from them? Could we make our stuff in an endless loop as nature does, by returning natural materials to the earth and reusing manmade materials over and over again?

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Get Loopy

What can we learn from living systems in the way we make our stuff?

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What is biomimicry?

What a tree can teach us about plumbing.

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Designs that work

Cool examples of inventions inspired by nature.

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A circular economy

A different way of looking at the way we make, use and consume our stuff.

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Ants and termites

Can we learn a few tips from ants and termites?

Awesome Facts

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  • Some spiders, smaller than your little finger, can produce silk stronger than steel.
  • The flight of birds inspired Leonardo da Vinci to draw his sketches of flying machines in the 15th century and, 400 years later, the Wright brothers to create and fly the first airplane.
  • In 1941,The Swiss engineer George de Mestral invented Velcro after noticing the prickly heads of plants sticking tenaciously to his dog’s fur.
  • Japanese engineers designed the smooth, streamlined nose of the fast bullet train by copying the kingfisher’s beak.
  • Olympic swimmers wear swimsuits mimicking the texture of shark skin.
  • The tiny texture on the surface of lotus leaves allows water to bead and drag away any dirt. This has inspired the invention of non-toxic paint and self-cleaning windows.
  • The blue Morpho butterflies get their beautiful colour from the structure of their wings, reflecting blue light at a certain angle. This has inspired a textile company to create coloured fabric without any chemical dyes.
  • Tropical boxfish swim amongst coral reefs with as little energy as possible. Engineers have designed a fuel efficient car in the shape of a boxfish.


Download fun and original activities to encourage 7 to 12 year old children to develop their understanding of a 'closed loop' economy and to stimulate discussion and debate.

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Based on the original book ‘How We Make Stuff’ by Christiane Dorion, Templar Publishing, 2012.
Website text by Christiane Dorion - Design by Harriet Pellereau.

© 2012 Ellen MacArthur Foundation - Illustration © Beverley Young - Text © Christiane Dorion