Green Island, NY

If our dependence on foam, rockwool and fiberglass is to be lessened, we will likewise need a stable of materials that can serve subtly different purposes. Cork is great in some applications, wool in others. Add mycelium and hemp to that group. Mycelium has existed in nature for longer than humans have been a species. Mycelium is the chitin-based neural network of the natural ground, existing wherever forests, meadows and (natural) fields exist. Biodiversity strengthens and grows mycelium; industrial agriculture and development typically lessen the presence of mycelium. A group along a river in upstate New York have created a culture of mycelium that can be grown on command and fed with agricultural byproducts like sawdust, wood chips and wheat husks. Able to be grown in custom-shaped formworks, Ecovative’s mycelium is compostable, so it makes sense to be used as packaging material in mailed products. It’s also flame-retardant and doesn’t heat up, and since it’s white it works well as lampshades. Other building materials are being actively explored by Ecovative, and the potential of the material for technological means has only just begun to be explored.