Magic Mushrooms: Organic, Biodegradable Insulation

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Mushrooms are the basis of an innovative and organic Styrofoam replacement.

Two recent engineering graduates have created an organic, biodegradable insulation that’s turning heads in the building industry. Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre’s Greensulate is made from agricultural waste products–such as rice or buckwheat hulls–combined with mycelium, the fibrous network created by mushrooms. After the organic composite boards are “grown,” they’re dried and heat-treated in convection ovens. (This process requires little energy, but the company is developing solar ovens to offset the energy that is used.)

Petroleum-free Greensulate carries a price and an R-value competitive with standard rigid board insulation, such as Styrofoam. “Our material won’t compete directly with fiberglass or blown-in insulation,” Bayer says. “Instead, we will compete with synthetic insulators, such as foam board, that have no green competitors today.”

Bayer and McIntyre founded Ecovative Design to commercialize Greensulate, and plan to offer a Greensulate-based product, such as a surfboard or a biodegradable cooler, by mid-2009. Greensulate organic insulation should be available to select customers by the end of 2010.

“The building industry is in need of an exterior rigid insulation that’s not fossil fuel-based, says green building consultant and author David Johnston, president of Boulder, Colorado-based What’s Working. “I studied mycology in college, and it forms a very pervasive network in soil. This is the kind of innovation that makes the green building field so exciting right now.” For more information, visit

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