Styrofoam makes up 25% of our landfills in the U.S. That is insane. We may only use it for a day or a week to ship a package, but it stays in our environment for thousands of years. I think I’ve come up with an alternative…

In this animation from Joe’s Big Idea, mechanical engineer and Evocative Design co-founder Eben Bayer tells the story of how a fungus he saw on his family farm eventually inspired the idea of mycelium packaging. Mycelia are white, root-like threads of fungus that branch and weave as they grow and sprout mushrooms. From Fast Company:

Ecovative first launched a decade ago by making packaging, now used by Dell and Ikea, that injects farm waste products with mushroom spawn inside a mold. Days later, the mycelium completes the growth of the product, which can be used as a compostable alternative to Styrofoam. The same process can also be used to grow building materials…

The process involves growing trays of mycelia, along with a nutritious substrate, in long walk-in tunnels. By controlling temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, airflow, and other factors, it’s possible to control the geometry, density, size, and shape of the material.

ecovative design - mycelia
Learn more about mycelium and Bayer’s work in these two videos: Biodegradable mushroom packaging from Ecovative Designs and Fungus: The Plastic of the Future.

Then watch The Fungi in Your Future and more videos about biomimicry, innovation, fungi, and sustainability.

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