Friday, April 4, 2014

FungiFacts Friday: The Potential of Mycelium to Grow Materials

       I was first introduced to this concept that mycelium could be used to make eco-friendly materials years ago on the Ted Talk Eben Bayer: Are mushrooms the new plastic? This video is a must see! Everything from food trays and packaging materials to chairs (A growth industry: How mushrooms are being used to create furniture, a very cool read) can be grown (*O.O)

       How you ask? All that's needed is a feedstock of crop waste like husks, inoculate it with mycelium and let it sit in the dark for about five days depending on the size of the mold. Then after the mycelium product has served it's purpose, it's completely decomposable and can be put back into nature. Today our primary feedstock to power our lives and make most of the products around us is petroleum, a limited resource. Just to produce the plastic bottles used by America in 2006 it was estimated to require more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including what was used in transportation (Bottled water and energy fact sheet). Plastic also does not easily biodegrade, it only breaks down in the environment to tiny pieces that act as small toxin sponges that take a very very long time to completely break apart. This is particularly frustrating in the ocean where these little bits are mistaken as food by fish (*>.<) Don't even get me started on the multiple floating islands of trash in the ocean, look it up if you dare. Why is the world's biggest landfill in the Pacific Ocean?

(The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Where the above photo came from but if you read that one there are much more disturbing pictures of the effects of our trash, you've been warned, it's extremely sickening)

       It's a rabbit hole that is quite depressing to go down... basically my degree in Environmental Science taught me the multitude of ways we are destroying our environment, and all the ways we could be doing something about it but aren't. I could rant on this subject forever but the point in this case is we need to start making all plastics smarter and biodegradable, as well as using more alternatives to Styrofoam and other petroleum products. Mycelium holds great potential to help us on the path of sustainability if we would just wake up to utilizing it.
Mandy Spring, Aspiring Mycologist

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