Written by Cameron DeWith
I love to hear about the up-and-coming methodologies that could help in the fight against climate change. A couple of weeks ago, my father stumbled upon an article about mycelium, a substance that could prove incredibly useful for a sustainable future. As such, I decided that it would be a fitting topic for a blog post. Enjoy!
What is Mycelium?
Trees and fungi, though very different, possess similarities which help in easily comprehending the makeup of fungi. Trees, many of which are fruit-producing, have networks of roots that draw up nutrients. Likewise, fungi possess a network of ‘roots’ known as mycelium. Mycelium is responsible for both the absorption and transportation of nutrients. Once the mycelium has been developed, it begins the formation of mushrooms. Instead of letting this occur, it is possible to manipulate mycelium to continue to expand by controlling variables such as the concentration of carbon dioxide or the flow of air. Mycelium is sustainable, “require[s] minimum energy for production (self-growing)” (Haneef et al., 2017), and has innumerable applications. Given this, it could be extremely useful for the building of a sustainable world.
Uses for Mycelium
While it would be impossible to list every potential application for mycelium, I will highlight a few below:
- There is a wide array of uses for mycelium in building materials including wood and insulation. Mycelium is ideal because of its cheap cost, sustainability, and health benefits when compared against current products. Moreover, it also serves to effectively deter termites.
- Mycelium will eventually replace current packaging materials including styrofoam, plastic, and polystyrene.
- Mycelium can replace leather or pleather. This comes with a host of advantages.
- Mycelium can be used to make plant-based meat that resembles meat-like structures without the environmental damage caused by raising livestock.
- A Dutch startup used mycelium and wood chips to create biodegradable coffins. The mycelium helps to decompose the dead body and convert it into nutrients to support plant growth. The coffin will dissolve within 30 to 45 days and the body will decompose within 2 to 3 years (as opposed to the 10 to 20 years the decomposition of a body takes in a conventional coffin).
I am excited to see the various applications of mycelium continue to develop over my lifetime. Mycelium could have applications in virtually every facet of life. However, the most thrilling part is that it is entirely sustainable! Mycelium will not harm our environment because it is completely natural. As the effects of global warming continue to worsen, thinking green will become incredibly vital for our society. Consequently, I am always happy to see the potential we have to move away from the environment-harming methods of the present. We will need to make change happen if we want this world to maintain its beauty for future generations. Certainly, mycelium is one way to ensure that that happens!