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This story is part of Fix’s Outdoors Issue, which explores how we build connections to nature, why those connections matter, and how equitable access to outside spaces is a vital climate solution.

Erin Rovalo was playing in a forest of cedar and Douglas fir near Tacoma, Washington, when she came upon a tree that changed her life.

“I have this very vivid memory from my childhood,” she says, “of finding one particular cedar tree that had these long branches that went all the way to the ground.” She and her friends found an opening in the dense greenery and discovered they could squeeze their way through. It was like a hidden door to a mysterious world under the tree’s canopy. The space smelled of “rich-soil earth” and was illuminated by sunlight filtered through the leaves, making patterns on the ground. Being there sparked Rovalo’s sense of wonder and imagination. 

Rovalo, who’s vice president of the community department at the International Living Future Institute, is an expert in biomimicry, which looks to nature’s forms and processes to solve design challenges like reducing energy and water consumption, preserving ec... Read more

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