As we approach the holiday season, I could not help but think about all that packaging that we end up throwing away. I, like many people now, do make an effort to reuse packaging as often as I can.
When shipping materials, I often receive boxes with those pesky little styrofoam bits that fly all over when you open the box. It’s irritating, to say the least, but what’s more troubling, is that styrofoam and many other packaging materials are non-degradable. They can stay with us for a thousand years.
As an innovation consultant concerned about the environment, I’m always thinking ‘what if’. So… what if you could use shipping materials over and over again? What if that material would never end up in a landfill and could actually be a friend to the environment? A perfect world scenario would be a material that would be multi-functional. Just imagine if you could have a shipping material that also cleans up oil spills, eliminates mold, acts as antibiotics, absorbs pesticides, controls pollution and even defends us against weaponized smallpox. Seems like a stretch, but it is reality.
This dream product is live material that is also a food: mushrooms. Not only are they a wonder food nutritionally, but they’re a good source of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. They also contain essential minerals, selenium, copper and potassium.
There is a part of the mushroom called mycelium, that allows for its’ multi-functionality. You can mold things with it, use it as a fire-resistant material, insulate with it to protect against moisture vapor, and even use it to absorb acoustical impact. Just ask Paul Stamets, a mycologist, who wrote Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World. From degrading environmental toxins to inhibiting the growth of various cancer cells, mushroom really do have unbelievable potential to save our planet and ourselves.
Slowly companies are embracing this environmentally sustaining product. One such company is Ecovative, based in Green Island, NY. Started by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre as a university project at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, this company uses 100% compostable mushroom mycelium as shipping materials. We need more entrepreneurs like these two.
Once again, we see that Mother Nature has the best technologies out there.
Prepared by Pat Harmon