Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Biomimicry at Greendrinks Naperville!

Amy is bringing biomimicry to the western suburbs of Chicago at the next Greendrinks Naperville.  Come here what biomimicry is all about and how you can use it to inspire sustainable design!

Wednesday, August 31st, 7pm at Sugar Toad in the Hotel Arista.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sustainability Wordle

Wordle: sustainability
Just a fun graphic of the words that we use to define sustainability, courtesy of and

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Learning from Carpenter Ants

Carpenter Ant Colony in a Bounce House
In honor of my biology professor, Adrian Smith, who has devoted his career to studying ants, I chose to learn a little bit about the carpenter ants which until this morning and without my knowledge had built a small colony in my kid's rolled up bounce house.

I have no idea why a colony of carpenter ants would chose to build a satellite community in a rolled up bit of plastic fabric.  It must have been dark and slightly damp and that must have been enough.  It was a poor choice on her behalf.  After the destruction of their nest, the ants were obviously very erratic and grabbed their rice shaped pupae, or egg sacks, and scattered in the grass.  I watched them for a while, trying to determine if they had any idea where they were going, but they just seemed to be running for cover.  Within minutes, each and every egg sack had been picked up and was being carried by an ant in its pincers and within a few minutes, very few pupae were visible.  Ants in general are very good at concealing themselves to avoid predation, so it is difficult to follow ants in grass and see where they go.

Being Present

Photo by Amy Coffman Phillips.  
Have you ever tried to just sit and be still for 25 minutes?  Without thinking about anything in particular?  Or without really moving?  Well, I tried.  And it's hard.  On a recent trip to the Springbrook Prairie Preserve I completed a BPCP iSite where I was to "Sit and Be Here."  Being present is so hard to do, especially for someone so used to multi-tasking.  Sitting still and observing is a form of meditation, and I found it extremely relaxing but also irritating.

It felt relaxing because I was alone, my children were being cared for by our babysitter, and I had the luxury to just sit down and look at a field of green and yellow prairie flowers.  That experience alone made the time worthwhile.  But the multi-tasker in me wanted to be doing something else at the same time - walking or running so that it would count as my exercise for the day; naming the grasses, birds, and bugs I see and remembering the ones I couldn't name; thinking about what I see and practicing my biomimicry translation skills...  I find it almost impossible to turn off the part of my brain that tells me what I am doing now is not as important as what I should or could be doing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reading the Sky

Photo by Amy Coffman Phillips
How much of fifth grade science can you remember?  What are the different cloud types called?  My knowledge was tested today on the most gorgeous day we've had in months when I was lucky enough to be at the Morton Arboretum with my friend and our kids.  The children's garden was complete chaos with every child in the five surrounding communities all congregating there for the day, so we decided to climb a little hill and sit and watch the clouds.  I have fond memories of staring at the clouds on a pretty day and trying to guess what shape they were making.  My daughter humored me a bit in between trips running up and down the hill and found a snake that the cirrus clouds created (I thought it looked like a spine).  My friend found a stingray made of puffy cumulus clouds.  And I seemed to find mostly fish of different sizes and shapes, a group of cumulus clouds that looked like airplanes flying low, and one space ship.  A psychologist has probably developed a way to analyze what we see in clouds as some type of Warshak test, but I prefer to leave that at the surface.