As we look for more sustainable replacements for our everyday items, we can find a plethora of convenient swaps. Sometimes we return to time-tested traditional materials: Swedish dishcloths replace paper towels, metal straws replace plastic straws, and waxed canvas can replace plastic food wrap. Even something as time-honored as mason jars is finding a resurgence in popularity for its versatility and sustainability.
Other potential replacements are new innovations, as is the case with mushroom leather. This innovative idea is currently being used by multiple manufacturers as a replacement for traditional cow leather. Not only is this a great example of a circular economy, putting to use the mycelium left over from commercial oyster mushroom harvest, but it requires far fewer resources to produce. It's claimed that mushroom leather requires 99% less water than traditional leather. I wonder about land-use statistics as well, since each cow requires 20-30 acres of grazing land.
I've been driving across the US this week, and it has been sobering to come face-to-face with land use in traditional agriculture. When all I can see for miles around is traditional agriculture fields and billboards for Roundup Ready seed, it is undeniable that the land is being put to use for the good of humans and humans only. With no land set aside for habitat of natural communities, the one and only thing those acres are doing is growing corn to support humans (or to feed cattle, which in turn supports humans). There is no vibrant ecosystem or complex food web there, only a linear system of agriculture.
Innovations like mushroom leather are a promising lead into a more circular and sustainable system.