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Know Your Fungi

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An example of biodegradable packaging from Ecovative.

The 2009 Fellows from Pop!Tech–led by National Geographic Fellow Andrew Zolli–have been announced, and this year the group includes the amazing Eben Bayer of Ecovative Design. Eben and fellow RPI graduate Gavin McIntyre were fascinated by mushrooms growing on wood chips and observed how the fungi strongly bonded the wood chips together. This observation led them into a business developing green materials using this sticky organism. Their packaging is an amazing 100% compostable and biodegradable because it’s made from seed husks and mushroom roots!

Ecovative offers a biodegradable replacement for packaging materials like Styrofoam™. Ecovative’s long-term vision is to provide an eco-friendly replacement to conventional plastics and foams in wind-turbine-blades, to boat hulls, structural insulating panels and lightweight vehicle panels, and basically eliminate unsustainable plastic and synthetic products from product and waste streams.

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A sample of EcoCradle™

One product they offer is called EcoCradle™. The materials that go into EcoCradle are all naturally occurring waste products, like buckwheat hulls, rice hulls, or cotton burrs. The production process harnesses the natural ability of the organisms to grow into a substance strong enough for them to use. Therefore they grow materials without lots of heat, pressure or petroleum, and the process is extremely energy efficient. And once folks are done with an EcoCradle™ packaging buffer, it can be used as mulch in the garden, composted or even thrown away.

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A small sample of Greensulate™ insulation

Another product, Greensulate™ is also, literally grown, not manufactured. They use cotton seed hulls and buck wheat hulls to create energy-efficient insulation. They were inspired by the efficiency of nature, and using the mushroom roots to bond seed husks into a strong rigid board.

I can’t wait to hear more about Eben and the rest of the fellows at the Pop!Tech conference on October 21-24.

Photographs courtesy of Ecovative Design