Bacteria Saves Consumerism

April 2019

I attended a very thought provoking industry talk at the Design Museum in London about multi-disciplinary approach to design. I was very taken by the subject of bio-design which speaker Natsai Audrey Chieza introduced. She spoke about how you can utilize the life cycle of Streptomyces coelicolor. It’s a strain of bacteria that is found in the soil and produces an antibiotic called actinorhodim. Depending on the acidity of it’s environment it can produce blue, pink, and purple pigmented molecules. When used as dye on cloth such as silk, these bacteria produce a colorfast pigment without the use of any chemicals. By doing this you save a massive amount of water and prevent chemical run-offs from polluting the environment. This led Natsai Audrey Chieza to understand how nature could completely revolutionize how we design and build our environments in the future. The key being, to learn how to control this living organism so that you can use this dyeing method in industry and meet the human scale.

 

I understood during this talk that our consumerism habits didn’t have to disappear for the environment to heal. We have to alter and form our material future instead. If we can harness and control living organisms and change our industry, this “could represent a new mode of survival,” (TedTalk) ensuring a sustainable development. Another example of synthetic biology is turning Fungi into material. ‘MycoWorks’ is replacing animal leather with mushroom leather. Fungi is being developed as a very multi-purpose organism with many different uses for material replacements. Other companies like ‘Ginkgobioworks’ use bacteria to produce some of the ingredients of perfume normally harvested in the wild, and are now involved in making veggie burger taste like meat as well as producing cannabis in yeast. Constructing material through bio-engineering also has many benefits. You can actually produce materials that are more durable, multi-purposeful, and have more options than existing, un-sustainable materials. (multi-purpose functions?)

With fossil fuels polluting the planet the time for environmental awareness is now. By combining design and biology the possibility for redesigning a future where people, our needs, and the existing nature can be placed, along side one another, into an organic and sustainable network.