Mushrooms Offer Solutions for Environment and Economy

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Quiet as
they may be, mushrooms have been making headlines as of late. It turns out the
fungi kingdom is capable of fixing some of our species’ biggest environmental
gaffes, and boosting the economy while it’s at it. Paired with a little human
ingenuity, mushrooms could be our ticket to a viable

In toxic
waste sites “so steeped in oil, dioxins, and other chemicals that hardly
anything can grow on them,” fungi have become part of a plan for accelerated clean-up, reports Michael J. Coren for Fast Company. Under the guidance of Mohamed Hijri, a biologist and
professor at the University of Montreal, a few of nature’s heavy-hitters
will be introduced to such sites to work their magic. First, willow trees will
be planted densely to absorb heavy metals. The trees will then be burned, their
ashes used as food for fungi and bacteria able to metabolize petrochemical
waste. Fungi selection is still underway, but has a big payoff. A process that
might have taken hundreds of years (or longer) can be accomplished in just a

are also linking young entrepreneurs to a green living, writes Sarah Stankorb inGOOD.
Inspired by a class in business ethics, would-be consultants and investment
bankers Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez instead opted to invest in closing the
food-to-soil loop. During their final semester, the young men began growing
mushrooms in a bucket of used coffee grounds. With a little legwork and a $5,000
grant from UC Berkeley, they soon had a deal to collect grounds from a west
coast chain, Peet’s Coffee, in which they would grow mushrooms for northern
California Whole Foods stores. Soon their company, Back to the Roots, was making money for both grounds collection and mushroom sales. As
if that weren’t enough, they’re giving away the used grounds (complete with
mushroom substrate) to local gardeners for compost.

of the beneficial uses of mushrooms is not entirely new. Mycologist Paul Stamets
has been working to bring awareness to the possibilities for decades. He made
major breakthroughs in 2008 with his TED talk, “Paul Stamets on 6 ways mushrooms can save the world” and
acknowledgement from Utne Reader,
which named him one the 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World. Looks like his
ideas have spread, taking shape in inspiring new

Sources: Fast Company,GOOD

Image: Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) mycelium growing in a petri dish on coffee grounds. By Tobi Kellner, licensed under Creative Commons.

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