Have you ever seen mushroom leather before? You may have, but you may not know it! When we talk about vegan leather, we may be referring to fake leather made from fungus. Leather is still prevalent across the world because it is durable and versatile, but in recent years, ethical concerns over animal products have made many industries move away from traditional leather.
What is mushroom leather?
Mushroom leather was first developed by Danish designer Jonas Edvard using mushroom spores and plant fibers. Edvard found that after harvesting his oyster mushrooms, he could use the leftover material by shaping it and drying it out.
This alternative leather is sustainable because it does not need to be treated using polluting substances. Once the product has been used, it becomes biodegradable and is compostable. Mushroom leather is also light in weight and very versatile so manufacturers can use it in many different products.
How is mushroom leather made?
The fungus leather technologies that exist in the United States use the root-like structure of mushrooms called mycelium. When mycelium is grown on sawdust or agricultural waste, it forms a thick mat. This mat is treated to resemble leather.
Since the actual product used is the root of the mushroom and not the fungus itself, this process can be done anywhere. Making mushroom leather does not require light, and it instead converts the waste of the mushroom.
To go from one spore to a finished mushroom leather, may take a couple of weeks, which is much quicker than what it takes to make animal leather. Some of the elements used to modify the fungi material include mild acids, alcohols, and dyes. This same material is compressed, dried, and marked.
There is no need for advanced and complicated equipment, and it can be done right at home, giving more opportunities to local artisans and small businesses. The final product looks exactly like leather and will last a similar amount of time.
Moving in the right direction
While the technology to use and develop mushroom leather is still very new, the process may become easier with time. Even though mushroom leather does not solve all sustainability problems, it can be a good alternative to animal leather.
Of course, there are other problems when it comes to animal farming and the use of plastics, but this creative way of using mushrooms is a plausible solution to the use of leather by big manufacturers and small businesses.
You can already find some mushroom leather products commercially. A quick Google search will turn out shoes, handbags, watches, bags, and more. Some designs are on the expensive side, due to the manufacturing process, but the prices might go down once the process for making this leather becomes more widespread.
If you are still on the verge, try out something small and see for yourself how durable mushroom leather truly is. You will be surprised as well, with the feel and look of this fabric, which looks exactly like real leather.
The future of mushrooms
Aside from being a fantastic food, full of nutrients, mushrooms are great for purposes aside from eating and making mushroom leather. These are just a few ideas of how mushrooms can be used and keep the sustainability cycle going:
- Ethanol fuel: while still being studied, there is evidence that the remains of millet and sorghum mushrooms can be recycled and turned into fuel. This mix is what oyster mushrooms eat. If effective, this mix of mushrooms could prove to be a sustainable way to create fuel.
- Enriching of soil: mushrooms tend to form symbiotic relationships with their hosts. In this case, mushrooms can help plant roots obtain the water and other nutrients they need. If you find that your plants or crops are not growing adequately, using mushrooms may do the trick.
- Skin products: since they are full of nutrients, it should not come as a surprise that mushrooms can help your skin look better. There are now skin products available that contain mushrooms and are high in antioxidants and vitamin D.
- Tea production: you may already know it, but mushroom tea is a healthy beverage with many health benefits. You can use your mushrooms to create powerful teas and give your body a boost in immunity, prevention of inflammation pathways, and improved cognition.
- Building materials: since many can use mushrooms to create vegan leather, they could also use them to form other materials. This is the case for bricks and other sustainable building tools. Using mycelium and other materials like cornhusks and sawdust, you can create strong bricks to build more things.
As you can see, mushrooms are more than simply food. You should give mushroom leather products a try, and why not start using your mushrooms for other products?
If you enjoyed reading this article then be sure to check out this article about the 10 Top Reasons to Grow Mushrooms.