mushroom packaging!

by

Lauren Stiles

Sustainability 101

August 25, 2021

There is no sustainable future with plastic production and usage levels at their current rate. But, it is actually quite difficult to eliminate from our lives. Plastic is extremely useful in everyday life and is almost impossible to avoid purchasing since it is used to package a huge variety of products. We need to find alternatives.

Turns out that there is a company called Ecovative Design that has developed a replacement for polypropylene, polyethylene, and polyurethane foam that is made of mushrooms and hemp hurds. These ingredients are infinitely more sustainable than the polluting fossil fuels that go into making plastic foams.

The brand claims that their mushroom and hemp version of foam is low-cost, water resistant, and insulating. It also composts within soil in 45 days and composts in marine environments in 180 days! This is excellent.

The process of making packaging from these materials is done in five steps during which a 3D mold is made, hemp and mycelium are added, left to grow in the mold/tray, removed and allowed to grow further, and then dried to prevent them from growing any more. Again, this process is significantly less energy intensive and polluting than conventional plastic packaging.

Though Ecovative Design’s production processes and ingredients are much less environmentally harmful than plastic production, there is still a lack of transparency for which they should be held accountable. There is no information provided about suppliers or working conditions, which are essential for evaluating sustainability.

To add, the board of this company is made up of 6 white men and 1 white woman which is not diverse enough.

Overall, I commend this company’s effort and success finding an alternative to plastic foam but I want to remind them that their sustainability goals need to be more well rounded. Sustainability goes beyond ingredients themselves, addressing the conditions under which they are made/processed, the importance of fair wages, and the carbon footprint of the entire process. I would like to see Ecovative Design look further into these issues and improve their transparency. 

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