Although the Anthropocene is a relatively new concept to the general public, mankind has recognized its negative impact on Mother Earth for decades. Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve been progressively using more and more of the world’s limited resources. Industrial activities that have become a routine part of our world’s functionality have caused a striking build up of waste. And contrary to old beliefs, we cannot simply take out the trash and let the Earth take care of the rest. Reducing the amount we consume and waste we produce are actions we are all taught to take to save the Earth, but so much more has to be done in order to make a significant difference. The answer? Well, one is what you’d least expect; mushrooms.

To most of us, mushrooms are just fungi, some of which we consume. But to product designer Eben Bayer, they are a plausible answer to waste management. His team uses fungal mycelium from mushrooms to create an insulating material. Not only does the production process create a compostable source of insulation, but even the process itself minimizes consumption and pollution, using agricultural waste as a means to help grow the mushrooms. Even better, it only takes around five days until the mushrooms are fully grown and ready for use.

Of course, every solution has its downsides. It seems too good to be true, but the only downside to the mushroom man’s plan is that it would be impossible to universalize this method of insulation. On the other hand, every solution takes time, and the longer it takes, the more thought will be put into the entire process of mushroom making. The innovation itself goes to show that the answer to helping reverse the harm we’ve done to our planet lies within the earth herself.

Bayer did what I myself didn’t believe was so simple. He created a material that could replace waste producing building materials (insulators), and in doing so, only waste was used throughout the process. And although mushroom insulation may only reduce waste in a small percentage of the planet, it paves the way for new ideas and innovation, which in time, will bring us a few steps closer to slowing down the rate at which we are changing the earth as we know it.

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