Students in the environmental club PEACOCK (People’s Environmental Action Club Of Cathedral Kids) are learning that there is a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to mushrooms. In fact, it’s what’s below ground–the root structure of a mushroom or “mycelium”–that’s gaining a great deal of attention and just might revolutionize areas of engineering and fabrication.
Mycelium can be cultivated and grown into three-dimensional objects. A company called Ecovative
is at the forefront of this green endeavor and students in PEACOCK have been using mycelium kits created by Ecovative to experiment in manufacturing their own three-dimensional items such as desk trays, planters, and vases.
As Ecovative explains, “Mycelial networks are unique, extremely fine and strong, capable of resisting water, decay, and immense internal or external pressures. In other words, they're one of nature's most amazing supermaterials”
Students combine the mycelium with agricultural waste (such as wood chips or corn husks), add a little flour and water, and place the material in a mold. Then they sit back and watch their structures grow. The process takes 10 days and the result is a functional object that is durable, purpose-built, and 100% biodegradable when no longer wanted or needed.
Mycelium is now being used in the manufacture of meatless food products, biodegradable “leather”, organic foams, insulation, plastic-free beauty products, and shipping/packaging materials. For more on mycelium manufacturing, view this TED Talk by Ecovative’s founder
Are mushrooms the new plastic? By asking this and other questions, PEACOCK is fulfilling its mission to raise awareness about environmental issues and “green” the school. The group also discusses issues relating to food justice, composting, sustainability, and other ways to help our community live in honor and love of our earth.