From Puma’s “Clever Little Shopper” to HP’s “HP Protect Messenger Bag,” packaging innovation is in a constant state of improvement. And although it often takes the best and brightest scientists to solve tough sustainability packaging issues, sometimes nature already has the answer. This week, we explore the key takeaways from “Telecomm and the Armadillo: A Biomimicry Story,” a session at SXSW Eco.

When Sprint wanted to create new, sustainable packaging that was lightweight yet durable, it looked to an unexpected place for inspiration: the zoo. The telecomm giant recently partnered with the San Diego Zoo’s Center for Bioinspiration to take a cue from nature. Harnessing biomimicry – the study and imitation of nature’s systems to solve complex problems – Sprint, the Bioinspiration team and design partner Deutsch Design Works zeroed in on the three-banded armadillo. In particular, the armadillo’s hexagonal shell shape and ability to wrap itself into a ball provided a strong but flexible and lightweight solution that could be applied to the same challenges Sprint saw in its packaging, such as the need to protect a very valuable product while using less material. The lessons learned from Sprint’s fieldtrips to the zoo will result in new packaging designs set to hit the market in the next 24 months.

Sprint, a company that has already reduced its environmental impact by 55 percent between 2009 and 2012, had clearly already tackled the low-hanging fruit in its packaging design. The company proves that sometimes you have to take a walk on the wild side, or look at a problem in a completely different way, in order to hit the next plateau of sustainable change.

What sustainability inspiration do you see in nature? Let us know on Twitter using #ConeCSR!


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