Ecovative's Fully "Able" Packaging: Renewable, Compostable and Eatable (maybe)

Image Credit: Evocative Design

How about packaging that is grown (not manufactured), renewable, compostable and biodegradable? Oh, and also moisture resistant, heat resistant and strong? Hell yes! EcoCradle™ packaging from Ecovative Design, uses rapidly growing renewable resources like mushroom to design durable and effective packaging. This innovation has earned Ecovative Design the prestigious 2011 Dupont Packaging Diamond Award:

Thinking completely outside the box, Ecovative looked to nature and found an innovative, cost-effective, all-natural solution for protective secondary packaging used for items such as electronics. EcoCradle™ is grown from mycelium (mushroom “roots”) and regionally sourced agricultural byproducts, like cotton burrs and oat hulls. EcoCradle™ is completely composed of ultra-rapid renewable resources and is also home compostable. It is a cost-effective and sustainable replacement for Styrofoam™ or other materials used in protective packaging.

Image Credit: Evocative Design

Common packaging materials, such as Styrofoam™ are made from oil or natural gas – products that are not ecologically or economically sustainable and are also hard to reuse (packaging is designed for a specific product so it’s hard to extend its usefulness) and recycle. Moreover they do not disintegrate and fill landfills (EPA estimates Styrofoam™ occupies 25% of the landfills in the US).

So why mushrooms in packaging and how is it grown?

Ecovative builds on the fact that mushrooms or fungi help break down organic matter and are key to planetary cycles. EcoCradle™ is grown using mycelium, a fungal network of thread like cells. This mycelium grows around agricultural by-products like buckwheat husks, oat hulls, or cotton burrs, “glueing” them to any shape we need. In 5 – 7 days, in the dark, with no watering, and no petrochemical inputs, the mycelium envelops the by-products, binding them into a strong and beautiful packaging part. Inside every cubic inch of EcoCradle™, there’s a matrix of 8 miles of tiny mycelial fibers! At the end of the process, EcoCradle™ is treated with heat to stop the growth so it forms a tight waterproof product without additional spores.

Image Credit: Evocative Design

This process, clearly has a low environmental footprint and cost, making it an attractive packaging solution. Moreover, EcoCradle™ can be grown to a specific packaging design or used in production lines, increasing adaptability and reducing manufacturing costs.

EcoCradle™’s success is evident with Steelcase Inc. – a leading company that creates high-performance, sustainable work environments, workplace products, furnishings and services strategic packaging initiative. Steelcase Inc. prides itself in leading the way towards creating the most sustainable office furniture and product supply chain possible and is now using EcoCradle™ packaging, calling it fully “able”.

It requires very little energy to produce yet it provides the cushioning and strength of traditional synthetic material. When no longer needed, the packaging can be composted and adds nutrients back into the soil. In some cases it becomes part of the earth again in as little as 45 days.

EcoCradle™ was able to meet and exceed Steelcase’s stringent requirements for performance, environmental responsibility, and cost, once again demonstrating that responsible products are not less effective or more costly.

It should come as no surprise that EcoCradle™ comes from a triple-bottom line company like Ecovative Designs that now figures on the “America’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs” list for 2011 by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, helping companies like Dell. Not only did Ecovative Design also create Greensulate™ – ecofriendly insulation, they take their sustainability seriously by using green power, reusing or repurposing office furniture and engaging their employees.

There are so many uses for such low-impact packaging like:

What else can ‘shroom packaging be used for? Do share your thoughts and ideas!

About the Author

Hi there! I am Priti and I specialize in strategy and communications for impact organizations that aim to create social, environmental and economic wealth for all stakeholders. Working from the ground up, I help these do-gooders craft effective programs for community engagement, outreach and profitability. Follow my work covering do-gooders, cleanweb, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses on Ecopreneurist and at Crowdsourcing Week. I enjoy traveling with my boys, cooking up a gourmet meal from scratch and entertaining! Join my community for Social Entrepreneurs on G+ Follow me on Twitter, on LinkedIn and Google+