The future is fungi: Surprising ways we’ll use mushrooms down the track
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
It seems like mushrooms are popping up everywhere these days *snicker*. From vegan leather to building materials, biofuel to burial suits, some of the uses of mushrooms seem like they’re straight out of a sci-fi movie. Let’s have a look at some of the most surprising ones.
If you’ve ever spent time reading about the fashion industry, you’ll learn pretty quickly that it has some ugly side effects. The carbon footprint is massive and the United Nations estimate that, when it comes to pollution, the fashion industry is second only to the oil industry.
One of the biggest culprits? Our penchant for leather. Tanneries are responsible for waterway pollution on an astronomical scale and leather disposal is problematic as well. That’s why there’s a worldwide race to develop plant-based materials that behave in the same way as leather. And Mycoworks has done just that.
Their leather-like material, called Reishi, is made from mushroom mycelium. The word on the street is, it looks and feels like leather. It’s biodegradable and it has a low carbon footprint. Even Vogue magazine has jumped on board, if you’re keen to learn more!
If fashion isn’t your thing, check this out. Clever architects and builders have been using mycelium to make eco-friendly building products. Top of the list? Insulation. Mycelium is being used to make insulation that actually grows in the house. The web of mycelium bonds the inner walls to the outer walls and it’s concrete-like strength reduces the need for studs and other internal supports. What’s more, it’s fire-retardant and biodegradable! Magic, indeed.
Fuel up with fungi
Renewable energy is top of mind for lots of us in 2020. And biofuels are a super way to reduce our carbon footprint. Usually generated from food crops like wheat or corn, biofuels can get tricky when the demand for fuel competes with the demand for food.
But researchers at the National University of Singapore have discovered that spent mushroom compost can be used to convert cellulose to biobutanol — which can be used to power vehicles!
One day, you could sit in the mycelium-leather seats of your mushroom powered car to drive from work to your mushroom-insulated home. Is there anything mushrooms can’t do?
Designer Jae Rhim Lee is concerned about death. Not about actually dying, but about what’s going to happen to the chemicals in her body after she goes. She learnt all about the detoxifying properties of mushrooms, and used that knowledge to create a death suit — made of mushrooms. The suit, when worn after death, contains mushroom spores and other microorganisms that “decompose the body, neutralize toxins and transfer our bodies’ nutrients to plants.”
In partnership with Coeio, she’s also assisting with the design of burial containers for pets. Not only is the process better for the environment, but it’s fantastic for starting conversations in the family about death, a topic many families avoid. (Image: coeio.com)
To the mushroom-mobile?!
You clever folks are already on the front foot by appreciating the nutritional benefits of mushrooms — isn’t it exciting to imagine all the ways mushrooms may change and improve our world?