Mycelium: Why We Love You

True or false, vegan leather is good for the environment?

First, a clue. Vegan leather is indeed animal-free because it’s usually made from polyvinyl chloride – also called PVC. It’s a type of plastic used in lots of durable products. It’s also pretty toxic and contains dangerous chemical additives including phthalates, lead, and cadmium which can be toxic to children. Sometimes vegan leather is made from polyurethane, which a combination of plastic and rubber and gives it that more resilient feel. It’s also manufactured with isocyanates which is a carcinogen known to cause cancer in animals. For those of you who appreciate irony, there it is.

So, if you answered false, you are correct. Vegan leather as currently formulated removes the guilt over how animals may be mistreated but adds a new level of health risk in the process. A better solution is about to hit the market in a big way.

Enter mycelium.

cream and neon green/ yellow mycelium

Mycelium are mushroom roots – those intricate, hair-like strands that are actually plant material. They transport soil nutrients up to the fungus and are fine to eat, though typically aren’t. What scientists have discovered is that mycelium can be coaxed into growing in many different ways, and into lots of different textures.

Thanks to a company called @mylounleather, the world is about to have access to a truly functional, durable and affordable alternative to real leather or vegan leather. Scientists working alongside fashion designers have been crafting an organic leather alternative. It is grown from interlaced mycelium that are formed into a lattice structure resembling the layered, flexible feel of tanned leather.

They hold their shape, retain their color, and perform exactly the same as leather, but without any of the problems associated with the other two types. Other hard-shell materials are being formed with mycelium as well, include packing materials and product containers. Here at JYBE Labs, we’ve tested some early wine bottle mailers and planters, both of which performed as advertised.

close-up of mycelium leather (tan and black)

Mycelium is one of those breakthrough discoveries that will probably continue to yield alternatives to things we really need to phase out. By some estimates, 30-45% of leather used industrially is wasted as bits are trimmed off and discarded. The obvious conclusion is that 30-45% of animals are needlessly slaughtered for their ultimately discarded hide.

We love the prospect of a large and dynamic mycelium business providing us with organically grown and naturally compostable materials for our commercial needs. Depending on how it’s treated, most mycelium products should be suitable for backyard composting and return easily to the earth as a soil amendment.

Keep an eye out for future developments and support the use of mycelium materials in your purchases!

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