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Cathy's Lab: Mother Nature High-Five

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Eating Mushrooms Makes Mother Nature Happy.
Simple things like recycling, eating local, and eating less meat do more for the environment than you might realize. Lets face it: making big life changes is rarely easy, and those are the changes most often dropped by the wayside. If you want to improve your health and the environment, it is more reasonable to make several small changes over time. Here’s an easy change that can pay big dividends for Mother Nature: eat more specialty mushrooms, like shiitake, oyster and Lion’s Mane.

Nature’s Recyclers
You see, mushrooms are nature’s recyclers. Specialty mushrooms grow on waste from crops, forestry, and paper and food processing. This is waste that would normally rot and produce carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) through microbial action, or be bagged and thrown in the landfill. When mushrooms are grown on this waste, what remains (mycelium) can be used as a fertilizer or feed that can improve the sustainability of small farms. Using mycelium as a fertilizer has been shown to increase crop yields and decrease pests and disease. Mycelium straw is also more digestible than straw alone, and it has been shown to boost the immune system of animals. As with most recycling, buying “mushroom-recycled” goods not only keeps waste out of a landfill, but it also creates an infrastructure and a market that can keep that kind of waste out of landfills for … well, forever.

Mushrooms can grow on farm, forest, paper and burlap waste.


Perfect Farm Food
Mushrooms are best when eaten fresh and don’t travel well unless dried, so they are a natural fit for local farmers. Consuming locally grown food obviously saves on gas and reduces greenhouse effects, as the food isn’t shipped to or from faraway lands. In some places, the locavore movement is actually slowing urban sprawl and creating more green space, because land has value for more than just home sites and since mushrooms can be grown right on the farm using waste products, they can play a large role in ecological farming practices.

Send Meat Packing

Specialty mushrooms can replace the protein on your plate. These beauties come from nature rich in umami flavor, full of nutrition and ready to satisfy. Relinquishing meat even occasionally not only keeps animals out of the slaughterhouse but can also have a positive effect on climate change. Here’s a recommendation from head of the United Nations’ Nobel-prizewinning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, (giving up meat) clearly is the most attractive opportunity. Give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there.”

And here’s another environmental reason to love mushrooms: mushroom mycelium breaks down organic pollutants like PAH, PCB and dioxins. Specialty mushrooms that degrade things like straw produce enzymes that can reach nonsoluble pollutants in soil. So the waste generated from mushroom farming can actually clean contaminants that could potentially leach from soil into the watershed.

Mushrooms are a sustainable, healthy food crop that requires little petroleum input while preserving and actually improving the soil. Whether mushrooms are used to replace livestock farming (which produces 18 percent of the earth’s greenhouse gas emissions) or a processed soy product, this little change in the diet can do a great deal for the earth.
So the next time you eat mushrooms, imagine Mother Nature standing there, saying, “Give me some skin!”



Support your local mushroom farmer!