The Circular Economy Leads to…Mushroom Surfboards?

Ecovative Design introduces mushroom surfboardsThe last time we took note of the company Ecovative Design, it was profiled as a case study of the Circular Economy concept by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The central idea behind the Circular Economy is that conservation, recycling, and reuse should be engineered into products and their manufacturing processes, rather than being tacked on as a responsibility for consumers. Ecovative fit the bill with its biodegradable packaging products made from mushrooms. Now the company has announced that it is ready to branch out into Mushroom Surfboards, of all things, so it’s high time we took another look.

Putting mushrooms to work

Technically speaking, Ecovative’s  Mushroom Surfboards are not made from the same kind of mushrooms you’d buy at the supermarket.

However, they come close enough. They are made from Ecovative’s Myco Foam, which is named after its foundational material, mycelium. Mycelium is the vegetative growth stage of mushrooms. Ecovative grows its Myco Foam on a medium of husks, seeds and other agricultural waste, rather than on manure or compost.

Mycelium is composed of long, branching, matted-together filaments called hyphae. That sounds rather delicate, but when dried into Myco Foam it forms a sturdy, lightweight material that performs competitively with conventional petroleum based shipping and packing materials.

Aside from using a 100 percent natural, biodegradable raw material, Ecovative’s process ingeniously harnesses the mycellium’s own power of growth to form custom shapes within molds, rather than using a more energy intensive pulp-and-fabricate approach.

The world’s first mushroom surfboards

Ecovative’s high performance packing products have already caught the attention of Dell,Crate & Barrel, and 3M among others. The company has also dipped a toe in the automotive parts market, so moving into a performance-demanding sport like surfing is a logical next move.

Ecovative hopes that its new Mushroom Surfboards will replace conventional surfboard cores made of petrochemical products, typically Polystyrene or urethane foam.

In addition to providing surfers with a more environmentally friendly product to use, the new board could help cut down on surfing’s contribution to petrochemical-based marine waste in the form of lost or broken boards.

Ecovative also notes that its Mushroom Surfboards are “tunable,” providing surfers with the ability to individually customize the degree of stiffness for their boards.

If you’re in Costa Mesa, California on Saturday, October 5th stop by The Boardroom Show surfing technology and design convention at the OC Fair & Event Center, where you can catch Ecovative showcasing the Mushroom Surfboard.

[Image: Mushroom Surfboards courtesy of Ecovative Design]

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Tina is a career public information specialist and former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She writes frequently on sustainable tech issues for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, and she is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Follow Tina on twitter, @TinaMCasey https://twitter.com/#!/TinaMCasey.