Week 3: Mushrooms & Plastics

During the lectures during Week 3, we discussed the roles of mushrooms and plastics. Our mushroom day consisted of cooking mushrooms and discussing their roles within various ecosystems. Before this class, the most I’ve ever eaten mushrooms before was strictly on pizza. I’m really happy that I got to try so many new types of mushrooms and will definitely be incorporating them into my diet more often here on out. The mushroom species that stood out to me the most, however, was mycelium. Mycelium is extremely important in ecosystems because of its ability to recycle nutrients and redirect them to other organisms in the surrounding environment.[1] Some species of fungi can even form symbiotic relationships with plants, including mycelium, and can manage the transfer and storage of carbon, thus it not being released as carbon dioxide.[2] 


Companies like Ecovative Design have also begun utilizing this material for sustainable home-use, and by doing so steer away from plastic use and physical pollution of single-use materials.[3] Each student received a grow-it-yourself mycelium and hemp package from Ecovative Design, and will be taking a hands-on approach by creating our own materials using this mushroom-based kit. 


Hopefully materials like those being sold by Ecovative Design become more prominent within our everyday society and norms. The use of single-use plastics is extremely concerning to me, especially since humans produce roughly 300 million tons of plastic each year, and world-wide only 10-13% of plastic items are actually recycled.[4] The lack of biodegradable materials within our culture leads to ocean pollution. After many years, this plastic is broken down into tiny particles, and these toxic chemicals can make their way into our food and water supply. These are microplastics, less than five millimeters long, and are not only harmful to humans but to aquatic life and the ocean itself.[5] It is impossible to not go a day without encountering microplastics, and this will become an even greater issue as pollution continues to grow.


[1] https://fungially.com/what-is-mycelium-natures-world-wide-web/
[2] https://thegreentemple.net/articles/mycelium-the-future-is-fungi
[3] https://ecovativedesign.com/why
[4] http://www.plasticfreechallenge.org/what-is-single-use-plastic
[5] https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html