Can Mushrooms Save the World?

A wine bottle laying in two-part package that looks similar to styrofoam but is made from mushrooms.

Today, we return to a classic episode from almost two years ago. We’re looking at eco-packaging, those environmentally friendly, biodegradable packing materials that are slowly making inroads into the once unbreachable domain of styrofoam. Listen as we put Ecovative’s mushroom-based packaging through its paces and we talk to an industrial designer and a biomaterials developer about how far we can expect these sustainable materials to go in replacing petroleum based products.

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Can Mushrooms Save the World?

Today we investigate eco-packaging, those environmentally friendly, biodegradable packing materials that are slowly making inroads into the once unbreachable domain of styrofoam. We put Ecovative’s mushroom based packaging through its paces and we talk to an industrial designer and a biomaterials developer about how far we can expect these sustainable materials to go in replacing petroleum based products.

Download this week’s show.

A wine bottle laying in two-part package that looks similar to styrofoam but is made from mushrooms.

Ecovative’s Ecocradle line of products hope to provide a more environmentally friendly alternative to styrofoam packaging.

Ecocradle Packaging
How well does mushroom packaging stand up to the tried and tested styrofoam? Two of our brave volunteers, Malaika and Matt, decided to find out. They did some research on Ecovative’s fascinating mushroom packaging before putting it through a series of tests. How does well does Ecocradle insulate an egg? Is Ecocradle edible? Matt and Malaika answered these questions and more.

Eco-Babble: Fairy Rings & Fungi
Have you ever seen a perfectly round ring of mushrooms, growing in a forest, on grass or elsewhere? Today we to look into these rings, some suggestions about why they appear, and the long-appreciated benefits of fungi in general.

How far can sustainable materials really take us?
Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips asks the Alberta Biomaterials Development Centre‘s Trevor Kloeck what’s actually possible to make with sustainable materials. Then he asks University of Alberta design professor Tim Antoniuk if what a consumer sees reflects a product’s actual green credentials, and whether we can get trapped by waiting for technological fixes to environmental problems.

News Headlines
The BC Association of Farmer’s Markets has received a one-time, $2 million grant. The purpose of the grant is to increase the access to fresh food for low-income seniors and families in communities throughout British Columbia. This program provides coupons for seniors and families to spend at their local farmer’s market. Families will receive $15 and seniors will receive $12 each week.
More on this story: Government of BC

Near the Labrador-Quebec border, a blockade by members of the Innu First Nation has been blocking roads to mine sites since last week. The blockade blocks a main road to New Millenium, Labrador Iron Mines, and other mine sites.
The protest is against the Quebec resource development plan known as Plan Nord. According to published reports, the Innu are opposing Plan Nord because it allows protected areas to be opened up to mining and gas exploitation and threatens traditional hunting grounds.
More on this story: CBC News, First Perspective

Last week, thousands of people in the southwest of Shifang, China, protested the government’s plans to allow the building of a copper alloy plant. Police used stun grenades, tear gas and batons to disperse protesters early in the week. Police violence and the detainment of 27 people protesting by police prompted a massive sit-in by protesters on Tuesday. Some people in Shifang are calling for the punishment of officials who violently detained the protesters and the release of those remaining in custody. The government has now cancelled the proposed metals project.
More on this story: The Guardian, Winnipeg Free Press

The Tsleil-Watuth First Nation, whose territories are in North Vancouver, British Columbia, is preparing to become the 131st nation to sign the Fraser declaration. The declaration bans Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project and other pipelines from crossing First Nations’ lands in the Fraser River watershed.
More on this story: Vancouver Sun

A state of emergency has been declared in three provinces in Cajamarca, Peru. The declaration comes after five people were murdered during protests against the Conga gold project. The protesters died after clashes with the Peruvian police and army. It is the second state of emergency to be declared in the wake of protests against Conga mines. Opponents of the Conga mine project are concerned that the US-based company’s Newmont mine would destroy water supplies.
More on this story: Peruvian Times, The Province,

Deforestation from Girl Scout Cookies & Drugs in our Drinking Water

A merit badge for deforestation? Today we hear about two Girl Scouts who investigated the environmental impact of their famous cookies and decided it was time for a change. We’ll also fill you in on a promising new approach to environmental remediation that uses mushrooms to clean up contaminated soil. Plus, we interview Dr. Greg Goss, an aquatic toxicologist who has been looking into the levels of pharmaceuticals present in Canada’s drinking water.

Download this week’s episode.

An oil palm plantation cuts a swath through the tropical forest of Indonesia. Photo by the Center for International Forestry Research.


News Headlines

Environment Canada plans to cut ozone monitoring
CBC News
Vancouver Sun

Hoax by the Canadian Youth Climate Change Coalition
Global News
Marketing Magazine
Vancouver Observer

Record loss of Arctic sea ice confirmed
CBC News

BC Government to change its carbon offsetting program
Oak Bay News
Vancouver Sun

Alberta to shoot wolves to protect caribou, scientists say habitat loss is the true threat
CTV News
Huffington Post


Environmental Impact of Girl Scout Cookies
Tropical deforestation poses threats to global biodiversity and the livelihoods of forest peoples. It is also a driver of climate change, as the tropical forests store much more carbon than the land covers that typically replace them. In the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, logging is frequently followed by conversion to palm oil plantations. An industry moratorium on buying soybeans from deforested areas in Brazil that began in 2006 greatly diminished soy’s role as an agent of deforestation, and proved that reducing the demand for commodities that drive deforestation is effective at limiting further deforestation. The Union of Concerned Scientists hopes that a similar strategy will work with palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia. Rebecca Rooney brings us the full story.

More information on this story:
Huffington Post Article
Madison and Rhiannon vs the Girl Scouts
Website created by Madison and Rhiannon
Girls Scout Cookies FAQ – Palm Oil


When most people think of natural garbage disposal, they think of composting. Composting works exceedingly well in the natural world; organic material can be quickly broken down and recycled back into the soil. But when waste is too toxic to be composted, the cleanup can be long and difficult. Today Brett Tegart takes a look at the development of a new solution to repairing environmental damage: using mushrooms to eliminate pollution.


Pharmaceuticals in Our Drinking Water
Most people take safe drinking water for granted, but just how clean is our municipal water? Modern water purification does a great job of removing viruses and bacteria, but now concerns are starting to surface about a different type of contamination. Increasingly, trace amounts of pharmaceuticals are being found in water. Our correspondent Steve Andersen talks to water expert Dr. Greg Goss to learn more about the risks and what we can do to reduce them.

Mushroom Hunting & Orbital Solar Power

This weeks show has a wide variety of awesome stuff for you, Rebekah Rooney and Tasneem Karbani started off the show with the environmental news headlines. For the features, new volunteer Brett gives a run down on orbital solar technology, Myles Curry introduces a new segment called Local Campaigns with a look at RePower Alberta, and Ellis Agbenyega tackles the term “greenwashing” in another installment of EcoBable. Steve Anderson hosted and produced the show.

The Morel of the story is ...

Morel Mushroom Found in Southern Alberta (By annkelliott on Flikr)

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Environmental Headlines

Calgary takes #1 spot in Eco city ranking

Mercer, a global consulting company, has released a Quality of Living Survey, which examined 221 international cities to produce an Eco-City Ranking

but…. A United Nations report released in April found that Calgary was among the worst polluters. It ranked 5th out of 50 international cities surveyed Here is a video of Jim Prentice(Minister of Environment) responding to that ranking.

Gulf oil spill continues to worsen

Obama orders six-month freeze on offshore drilling and expansion

Gulf oil spill is public health risk, environmental scientists warn

US coast guards harass journalists covering BP’s oil spill disaster

At a UN conference nations agree to an increase in aid from rich to poor countries to protect the Earth’s forests and curb global carbon emissions.

Oslo Forest Climate Conference

Canada has not committed a specific sum of money to the initiative, Jim Prentice (Minister of Environment) attended the conference and pledged Canada’s support of the REDD initiatives (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and degradation)

Trial of an anti-whaling activist from New Zealand begins in Japan

Peter Bethune, a Sea Shepherd campaigner, who tried to arrest the captain of the ship is faced with charges of trespassing, forcible obstruction of business, destruction of property, and illegal possession of a knife

A report from The Guardian reveals that Australia will be asking the international court of justice to end Tokyo’s annual whale culls in the Southern Ocean.

Overfishing pressure is predicted to combine with the Deep Horizons Gulf oil disaster to devastate the Bluefin population which spawns in the Gulf of Mexico

The Centre for Biological Diversity has filed a formal scientific petition to protect the Atlantic Bluefin tuna under the USA’s Endangered Species Act.

Orbital Solar Power

New Terra Informa correspondent Brett Tegart sheds some light on the possibilities  and practicalities of  the cutting edge technology, orbital solar power.

Local Campaigns

Across Canada there are countless groups and individuals working on environmental issues and causes in their communities that face a daunting task in spreading their message. This week on Terra Informa we introduce a new recurring segment called ‘Local Campaigns’ highlighting these often under reported efforts. Myles Curry debuts this segment with a look at a new green jobs and renewable energy campaign called RePower Alberta.

RePower Alberta Website

Sierra Club Prairie Chapter

Greenpeace: Stop the tar-sands

Urban Mushroom Hunting

Did you know that one Portabella mushroom can have more potassium than a banana? Did you also know that some species like the edible Honey Mushroom produce a bioluminescent light? For many people, the world of fungi and mushrooms is mostly a mystery. In fact, there are about 38,000 varieties of mushrooms and it is estimated that there are over a million species of fungi, but only about 10% have been officially described in the scientific literature.

Terra Informa correspondent Marcus Peterson attended a presentation on mushroom hunting for urbanites by the Alberta Mycological Society, one of the few mycological societies in Canada and the only one between Vancouver and Toronto. Although mushroom hunting can be a minefield fraught with lethal fungi, after this show, you’ll feel much more confident about going out and identifying your first morel.


Jargon seems to creep into discussions of just about everything these days, and the environment is no exception. So every now and again, in our Eco Babble series, we take a look at a common term whose meaning isn’t quite as clear as it should be. Today’s term is greenwashing and Ellis Agbenyega will clear it all up.

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