MycoPod is a mushroom cultivation system that fosters community resourcefulness. By using discarded coffee grounds as a medium to grow food, MycoPod shows how waste can be regenerative.
The Global Waste Crisis
As a planet, we create 2 billion tons of solid waste per year. If you have a hard time conceptualizing that, imagine 800,000 olympic sized pools filled with trash every single year. Here are the consequences of the global waste crisis:
By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Trash often doesn’t end up where it is meant to and pollutes ecosystems.
Trash incinerators are often times placed in communities of color. The pollution from these facilities can cause asthma and cancer.
Landfills are anaeorbic. Since waste can’t properly break down without the presence of oxygen, methane, a greenhouse gas, is emitted.
Understanding Trash Makers
I asked people to hold onto their food-related trash for a week which gave me a better understanding of how one’s lifestyle affects the amount of trash they create. It also showed me that the food packaging waste from eating takeout was just about equal with the waste created from grocery store items.
Everyone I talked to wished they could minimize the amount of garbage they made, but found it hard to do so in the current framework of society.
Zero waste is a lifestyle where people try different DIY methods and product swaps in order to minimize the waste they generate. Since they are experts on this, I spoke to them first. They told me that food packaging was one of the hardest things to avoid.
I also attended conferences, seminars, and used other resources to understand waste management better. There are a lot of problems with recycling, trash incineration, and composting, so designing something with “eco-friendly packaging” is not always the most perfect solution.
Lastly, after visiting a food manufacturing plant, I realized how difficult it would be to change packaging on a systematic level.
I turned to nature to help give me insight on waste.
As it turns out, Earth does not treat waste linearly like humans do. Decomposers help break down matter into simpler components to be help new growth.
Not only do mushrooms recycle matter, they also produce an organism that can be eaten. Due to this, they play a very interesting role in closing the loop between consumption and waste.
What started with a simple grow kit turned into an obsessive hobby. I soon learned that growing mushrooms was way different than growing other edibles like vegetables and herbs.
I had to figure out a way to maintain specific humidity levels while still allowing fresh air exchange. I ended up making a shotgun fruiting chamber equipped with a hygrometer control, humidifier, and air holes.
I also found that growing oyster mushrooms seemed to be the most beginner friendly.
Mushroom Growth Cycle
By understanding the way mushrooms grow, I better understood the needs they had during every phase of the growing process.
How could I use mushroom cultivation to connect people to their waste?
Used coffee grounds are an incredible substrate for mushrooms since they are high in nitrogen and already pasteurized. I collected used coffee grounds from studio mates to grow my mushrooms off of.
2 billion pounds of coffee are thrown away each year. We could be using this waste to grow food off of!
Ideation & Form Development
What is MycoPod?
MycoPod makes mushroom cultivation more accessible to users by offering a controlled pod that maintains humidity and air flow.
MycoPod kiosks can be found at various locations such as schools, cafes, and community centers.
By allowing users to contribute their own coffee grounds, MycoPod is emphasizing the way waste can be regenerative and localizes food production.
How it Works For Retailers:
Location decides to purchase a MycoPod kiosk.
MycoPod technicians continuously service the location.
Retailer makes 5% of profit.
Purchase MycoJar from website/retailer.
Scan jar for discounted mushroom price. If you did not drop off coffee grounds, you can still purchase them full price.
Fill up jar with used coffee grounds.
Mushroom doors will now unlock. Take the mushroom of your choosing.
Bring filled jar to the location.
Put your MycoJar on the collection shelf so a technician can pick it up.
For MycoPod Technicians:
Collects full MycoJars from kiosks.
Bikes them to facility for sterilization and innoculation.
Returns innoculated jars to kiosk and puts them in fruiting chamber when ready.
I pursued Product Design because it was the perfect way for me to combine my analytical, problem-solving mind with my creative spirit. My design philosophy is deeply rooted in appreciation for nature; It is a designer’s responsibility to create meaningful, long-lasting products from sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing methods. I am interested in designing home products, graphics, sculpture, user experiences, and solutions to combatting climate change. In my free time, you can find me making ceramics, tending to my garden, and hiking.