Plastics like styrofoam currently take up between 25%-30% of our landfill space, and a single cubic foot of styrofoam has the same energy content as about one and a half liters of gasoline.
College pals Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre established Ecovative, which grows cost-effective alternatives to plastic insulation and packaging. While they were students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Bayer and McIntyre experimented with mycelium, the network of vegetative filaments in mushrooms, and realized that it could be used to form incredibly strong bonds. Essentially, the substance functions like a glue that you can grow and use to form agricultural byproducts like plant stalks and seed husks into natural alternatives to styrofoam packaging and insulation.
Our “mushroom guy” Roy Halling brought me samples of this stuff a few months back when a story about an artist using mycelium to make furniture was making the Tumblr rounds. It feels a little funny, but is unquestionably strong and versatile and a fantastic way forward towards replacing plastics. ~AR