If you turn on the news today, you will hear a wide variety of issues related to waste, garbage, and pollution. Science is attempting a wide variety of actions to address these problems. Some are new technologies, while others rely on sources you might not have considered—including mushrooms.
You may be shocked to find the many ways that mushrooms can be used to help restore the planet.
1. Plastic-Eating Mushrooms
The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) reports that in 2018 alone, landfills received 27 million tons of plastic. Roughly 91% of plastic is not recycled. Considering that it can take up to 500 years for plastic to break down, this number is staggering.
Mushrooms might be at least part of the answer to address this problem. Certain microorganisms can degrade plastic. One such mushroom—the Pestalotiopsis microspore—can actually eat plastic as its primary food source. It can even survive without air or light.
This plastic-eating mushroom comes from the Amazon rainforest. It was discovered by a group of students from Yale University in 2011.
In addition, another study indicated that some common species of mushrooms, including the Oyster mushroom, which is edible, can also survive on plastic. That means that these mushrooms can not only break down plastic but also address hunger by creating an additional food source as well. To date, there have been up to 50 mushroom types that have been known to eat plastic.
Even the plastic-eating varieties that are not edible can have other uses. They can even be used to make building materials, furniture, and packing materials. They can remove pollutants from soil and convert waste into biofuels.
Some argue that every household could create their own growing area to do in-home recycling using mushrooms. Larger scale efforts at city and state levels could incorporate fungi systems into landfills.
2. Wearable Mushrooms: Mushroom Leather
Livestock across the world accounts for roughly 14.5% of human-generated carbon emissions. The tanning process itself also releases additional toxins. Those toxins get into the water and environment. As a result, even if we are using hides
from animals that are processed for food, tanning has its own set of problems that harm the environment.
Animal leather is simply not sustainable, and many would argue that it is not ethical, either. Mushrooms can create a viable alternative to animal leather, and scientists are currently making huge strides toward producing mushroom leather scalable for mass consumption.
Mushroom leather looks and feels a lot like traditional animal leather. It is durable but not as strong as suede. Nonetheless, it still holds up well to strain. It even soaks up sweat and some water as well.
3. Water Filtration
Mushrooms can also be used for water filtration. In 2012, the EPA gave a Small Business Innovation award to a company that was experimenting with implementing a mushroom filtration system for urban stormwater. It used a web-like tissue created from mushroom-forming fungi to trap pollutants before they reached certain water bodies.
The Oyster mushroom, in particular, has been used for the removal of sediments and atrazine in water. While true mushroom filtration systems are still in the works, the research in this area looks very promising.
4. Improved Crops and Soil
Mushrooms make great compost. They can help the soil hold water better and generally increase the available nutrients in the soil. Mushrooms can help repair spent soil as well as support existing crops in the soil.
Mycorrhizal fungi can significantly increase the overall health of certain crops, as well. The fungi literally connect with the roots of the plant to help it acquire nutrients in a way that they otherwise would not be able to do. By using mushrooms effectively, farmers could use less fertilizer while also producing the same (or better) quality of food.
Mushrooms can even be used to create pesticides. This specially formulated pesticide is not toxic to plants, animals, fish, humans, or birds. Instead, it only targets specific problem-causing bugs. It also does not harm bees. Using mushrooms as a pesticide could change the pesticide industry as we know it—and make runoff dangers and pollution a thing of the past.
5. Mushrooms As Medicine
Mushrooms have also been shown to be a huge nutrient source for humans. They provide nutrients that are often unavailable in other types of foods.
Medicinal mushrooms can be a great resource for your immune system. They can also improve brain health and function, assist with hormone production and effectiveness, and help with mood, including decreasing anxiety. Brainfood Mushrooms are proud to offer a variety of Canadian lab tested organically grown mushroom supplements chosen for their exceptional healing powers.
Mushrooms Can Save the World!
The variety of uses for mushrooms are still being studied, but the initial information we have to date is exciting. Households interested in starting their own growing adventure can do so with mycology resources from The Brainfood Mushroom Company. Learn more by visiting our website.