5 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the Planet
As we celebrate Earth Month, it's important to remember that every step we take towards sustainability accumulates to make a significant impact on our planet's health. One ally in our efforts to protect the environment is our personal favorite: the mushroom. From bioremediation to sustainable building materials and food production, mushrooms have a range of benefits that can support our journey towards a more sustainable future. Below are five ways mushrooms can save the planet.
1. Food Production
First, we’d like to suggest one eco-friendly choice you can make today: eat more mushrooms. According to UC Davis researchers, mushrooms are “one of the most sustainably produced agricultural products in the nation.” Unlike other types of protein production (e.g. meat or soy), mushroom farming does not require large amounts of land, water, or resources, making it a more environmentally friendly alternative. On average across the industry, mushrooms produce 0.5 Kilograms (kg) of CO2 per pound of food consumed. In comparison, chicken has 3.1 kg CO2 per pound. Salmon has 5.4 kg CO2 per pound. Eggs are 2.2 kg CO2 per pound. And Tofu is at 0.9 kg CO2 per pound. For comparison, burning one gallon of fuel to drive your vehicle emits 8.9 kg CO2. 1
That said, we acknowledge that the gourmet mushroom industry produces too much waste plastic. That’s why we’re excited to partner with Oregon DEQ, Oregon State University, US EPA, and the Oregon Applied Sustainability Experience (OASE) this summer to look into viable upstream and downstream solutions to prevent this waste–not only for Bridgetown, but for the industry as a whole. We can’t wait to share the results with you.
Mushrooms are capable of breaking down harmful toxics and pollutants. For instance, oyster mushrooms have been found to break down oil and petroleum-based products, and white-rot fungi can break down pesticides (like DDT) and other chemicals. By using mushrooms for bioremediation, we can restore soil and water quality, protect human health, and reduce pollution.
3. Plastic Waste Reduction
There are over 50 species of mushrooms that can digest and break down plastic. Pestalotiopsis microspora, discovered by Yale researchers, is the first mushroom species discovered that can survive on polyurethane in anaerobic conditions. Could mushrooms be a potential solution to the plastic waste problem?
Mushrooms are excellent at breaking down organic matter, which makes them ideal for composting. They can speed up the composting process, enhance water retention, and produce nutrient-rich soil for gardening and farming. By diverting organic waste from landfills and using mushrooms for composting, we can improve soil structure and soil fertility over time. If you grow mushrooms with one of our grow kits, put the spent block in your garden or compost pile after harvesting to increase soil health.
5. Sustainable Building Materials
Mushrooms can be used to create sustainable building materials, such as mycelium-based bricks. These bricks are lightweight, durable, and can replace traditional materials like concrete or wood. Mycelium building materials are even being studied by NASA to help construct lightweight habitats on Mars or the moon. By using sustainable building materials, we can reduce the carbon emissions associated with the construction industry and promote more environmentally friendly building practices.
Clearly, mushrooms are a valuable tool in promoting sustainability and reducing our impact on the environment. From plastic-eating mushrooms to sustainable building materials and food production, their versatility and unique properties make them a powerful ally in our effort to repair damage to the planet. By exploring and utilizing these benefits, we can work with our fungal friends towards a more sustainable future.