The spongy nature of mushrooms has long been met with the disgust of toddlers and the revere of foodies, but the fleshy fungus has found a new function.
Last April, we reported that Dell was to be the first technology company to get on board with Ecocradle, a mushroom-based shipping packaging. Since then, sustainable furniture purveyors Steelcase have signed on for a greener way to ship, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has even utilized buoys made of the material to help develop tsunami early-warning systems.
Ecovative Design, the company behind Ecocradle, aims to eliminate the waste from polystyrene, which no microorganism is known to be able to biodegrade, by using a combination of mushroom roots and agricultural crop waste that’s entirely compostable and easy for the environment to break down.
Unlike polystyrene, Ecocradle is grown, not manufactured, using mycelium, “a fungal network of threadlike cells,” the company’s website says. After 5-7 days of growing in the dark without petrochemicals, the packaging is treated to stop the growth and is designed around its desired contents.
“We don’t let the mycelium grow long enough to produce mushrooms. That means you never have to worry about spores or allergens,” the company says on their website. “At the end of our process, the materials are just as dead as a cardboard box, so you don’t have to worry about mushrooms sprouting from it or anything like that.”
Watch Ecovative Design CEO Eben Bayer give a 2010 TED presentation about the mushroom-based material: