Biophilia is the innate affinity we have, as humans, for the natural world and for a connection to other living things. Last year, trends reports began predicting that Biophilia would be a major trend to watch in 2020, especially through the lense of design. Little did these forecasters know just how true these hypotheses would turn out to be. The pandemic has catapulted us into an entirely new way of living. Scarcity, or the threat of it, has proven immensely motivating. We saw this to be true when panic-stricken shoppers descended on shops to bulk buy toilet paper and non-perishables. A similar phenomenon has occurred regarding our desire to be outside. The lived experience of our movements being restricted, or being contained indoors, has deepened our appreciation of nature. It has caused many of us to yearn for green, fresh air, and open space with renewed enthusiasm. Perhaps we will never take it for granted again.
We are sea swimming, camping, gardening, hiking, and cycling in record numbers. Bike shops in Ireland can hardly keep up with the demand. In January, before the pandemic was affecting the United States, reports indicated that only 20% of Americans were ‘recreating outside at least once a week.’ Just under half weren’t doing it at all. However, as the weather improved and lockdowns began to ease, people desperately sought to be outdoors. Countries around the world were then faced with the task of controlling the crowds as public amenities reopened. Photos of overflowing car parks at parks and bustling beach scenes dominated the news. Our behavior had to be tempered at times, but there was no denying the urgency in which people were clambering to get out in nature. The New York Times reports that outdoor retailers have been facing a ‘supply crunch’ as things like kayaks, hammocks, and camping gear were suddenly the summer’s hot ticket items. In Ireland, Lidl was forced to curtail sales of trampolines and swing sets as the sheer number of people queuing up outside shops to purchase them was disrupting social distancing efforts.
City dwellers are among the most eager for nature. Urban foraging, which was already becoming more popular in recent years, has seen a boost in popularity during the pandemic. Foragers are taking to backstreets of their neighborhood in search of sloe for gin, wild garlic for pesto, blackberries for jam, and herbs for medicinal teas. Others have taken up ‘Urban Hiking’, traversing ‘trails’ that link city parks or seeking out unexplored localities. Regatta Great Outdoors has been encouraging people to give this trend a try. City planning is also adapting. We’ve seen this in Dublin and abroad. Cycling lanes and pedestrian zones are being expanded. In Singapore, as public gardens were left to go wild, biodiversity excelled.
Meanwhile, Biophilia carries on in interior trends too. Natural fibers, woven baskets, and houseplants enable people to bring touches of the natural world to their indoor environment. Scandinavian homeware brand, JYSK’s, new collection is full of natural inspiration, from dusty green and blue colour palettes to dried flower arrangements. While sustainability efforts have been putting the natural world front and center for many years, the pandemic has proven to be another tipping point. This has implications for brands across all categories as consumers embrace their desire for green both inside and out. After decades of rapid industralisation, we may be finally building towards a truly biophilic society.