November 15, 2013

Sustainability and Innovation- Mushroom Houses and Surfboards


One of the many ways that an MBA student at Weatherhead can get involved with sustainability is by connecting with the school’s Fowler Center for Sustainable Value. The Fowler Center does a variety of things around sustainability. One of their primary goals is to produce sustainability business case studies for use in academic business programs. As a first year student I was given the opportunity to be on a team researching and writing one of the Fowler Center case studies.

The company that we focused on is called Ecovative. They are a young manufacturing firm that was founded in 2008. They have a proprietary technology that has been commercialized so far for the packaging and construction industries. The unique characteristic of their product is that they grow it! They have engineered a way to grow mushrooms in almost any shape and density. Their hope is to help push out expanded polystyrene (EPS) or Styrofoam as the dominant packaging material and replace it with their own.


The mushroom packaging is much more environmentally friendly as it will compost on its own without the use of an industrial process in a ninety-day window. This is in stark contrast with EPS, which takes tens of thousands of years to biodegrade in the natural world. Business-wise it is competitive with conventional alternatives because the production process consumes 1/5 of the energy necessary to create EPS. They also have found other applications such as surfboard cores and building insulation that grows in place!

As we were in the middle of our publishing process, Ecovative was featured in a full spread in The New Yorker. It was exciting to see that the company in our business case study was also getting national press from well-known media outlets, reinforcing that not only is our work beneficial but also relevant. I found that working at the Fowler Center was a great opportunity for me to dive deeply in the realm of business and sustainability with seasoned professionals to guide me. The Fowler Center has been an invaluable part of my education here at Weatherhead.

And another benefit to working on a case study with the Fowler Center? ... I’ll be a published author!

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As a second year MBA student here at Weatherhead School of Management, I write about how I’ve been able to use my time at the school to dive into the sustainable business world. I'll describe my experience with different projects, fellowships and other programs in and outside the school. In my studies I focus on sustainability and finance.

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