Nature & Wellness

Saving The Planet

Biophilic Principles Support Personal & Global Wellbeing

Not many people equate developing a neighborhood with our country’s national security, yet that’s how Colonel Mark Mykleby described it when he came to Serenbe to give a talk for Serenbe Fellows. That may seem overzealous, but it harkens to the example of putting your own oxygen mask on during an in-flight event before assisting someone else.

Agriculture, deforestation, and industrialization have caused greenhouse gases to rise, so densely concentrating a community’s built environment around preserved green space and farmland, not over-clearing trees when building those homes or structures, maintaining streams and creeks, and using bioswales helps to combat the negative effects of climate change.

Through Puck’s encouragement, Steve created the Biophilic Institute to provide knowledge and action steps that enable communities to transform themselves and to generate sustainable and prosperous economic systems. The knowledge and action steps result in personal wellbeing, community engagement, national security, and global balance, and Steve believes that in order to fully achieve all of those results, developers must pursue 12 Biophilic principles.


Land Use - There are five types of land usages - residential, agricultural, commercial, recreational, and transportational - and all of them are subject to local, state, and national regulations that dictate what they can include and how it will affect community members and the environment.

Water - Conservation of our water resources and protecting the quality of the water begins with proper storm water management and policies to reduce wasteful use. Safe and readily available drinking water is important to public health. It’s also not a given in all parts of the world and is wasted frequently in others.

Green Infrastructure - How much time do you think about how a single rain drop reaches the ocean? The process seems pretty straightforward, but in traditional development water is directed to hard pipes where it builds up speed and has no natural cleaning opportunities. The speeding dirty water rushes to tributaries so fast that it ends up damaging everything around it. Walking and bike paths should have equal importance to parking spaces and extra lanes of traffic. Natural and edible landscapes should be preferred to chemical and water-demanding sod and ornamentals.

Community Engagement - Connecting with your neighbors builds a high degree of civility and a sense of neighborly obligation to support and take  care of one another. Research now shows that connecting more frequently to one another affects mental health in a positive way.

Waste Management - Rather than moving waste through large, obtrusive pipes into an area separated by chain linked fences where it is then treated by chemicals and discharged back into our streams, John Todd created a Living Machine that minimizes and/or reuses waste without adding unnatural elements. Black water can be treated naturally and become an asset to a community. Recycling and composting are important features that should be part of community design and policy.

Structures - From floor stains to window treatments, materials matter for the environment and personal health even when they’re indoors. Eco-sensitive products result in sustainable and non-toxic households.

Energy - Reducing the demand for energy should be at the center of building designs. In addition to the auditory pollution that comes with HVAC systems, heating and cooling a home or commercial space takes an incredible amount of power that costs just as much money. Green standards for building construction and natural systems such as geothermal reduce the demand, making solar and wind cost less in the long run and save our natural resources.

Transportation - You’re more likely to see someone driving an electric golf cart than a car at Serenbe, and because of the aforementioned closeness of the neighborhoods, walking and between homes, shops, and to and from events is highly encouraged.

Tax Base - A balanced tax base allows the local governments to provide a higher quantity of quality civic services, like improved police and firefighter forces, road construction and maintenance, medical improvements, and more. In addition, the taxes on executive housing allows taxes on farms and workforce housing to remain lower.

Economic Development - Urban sprawl has separated commercial and residential uses creating bedroom communities and large business and commercial centers. This pattern discourages small businesses for many reason.

Food Systems - Most Americans get their food from a (very!) few core transshipment hubs, and that food could potentially be traveling thousands of miles before it gets to your dinner table. In addition to the fuel, human, and logistics costs, if one of these hubs were to ever be disrupted in any way it could devastate the country. Reestablishing local agrarian economies is essential for the economic stability of rural America and the health of our citizens.

Education - The future of our local communities and the planet depends on what we teach our youngest generations. Education happens beyond the classroom, and how we build our school grounds and communities can affect children more than what happens in the structure of the school building.

Learn how to incorporate Biophilia into your everyday life - whether you're a city planner or developer, or you're an eco-conscious individual - at the Biophilic Leadership Summit, April 26-29, 2020. Visit

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