Reishi™’s Life Cycle Assessment

— Overview

Life Cycle Assessment

Life Cycle Assessment Reishi™ Fine Mycelium™ Carbon Footprint

What does sustainability mean to you? We ask this question every chance we get. Often, the answer varies from person to person. In places that value artisan traditions and craftsmanship, sustainability means durability: an object that lasts. In other places, it means an object with a low carbon footprint. Our co-founder, Sophia Wang, often reminds us that sustainability carries an ethical responsibility: how do you consume in a way that replenishes yourself and the world around you?

For us, sustainability means impact. How much positive impact can you make with what you do, and how can you create even greater impact as you grow? With all the buzz about sustainability in the market (and because we like challenging ourselves with difficult questions), we know the moment has arrived: it’s time to put some numbers behind our words, and share with you the results of our first peer-reviewed life cycle assessment (LCA).

To read Reishi™’s full peer-reviewed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) published in Environmental Sciences Europe, click here.

— Carbon Footprint


Biodegradable Low-Carbon and Near Zero-Plastic

Reishi™ is a new class of material. It evokes the kind of emotional response we feel with high quality animal leathers, and it matches their performance across a range of criteria. Reishi™ is the first low-carbon and biodegradable option that evokes the same experience as leather. Our first peer-reviewed LCA, released this month, reports that Reishi’s™ carbon footprint is as low as 2.76 kg CO2-eq per m2 with considerable room to improve further. This number validates Reishi™ as a sustainable material with the promise of true impact thanks to its unique combination of natural quality, low carbon footprint, and biodegradability as a near-zero-plastic material.

This number is our starting point, the carbon footprint of our first large-scale production plant in South Carolina, and, as with other older industries, as Reishi™ makes its way further into the market and our production continues to scale up, its carbon footprint will only get lower.

Reishi™’s first carbon footprint assessment: 2.76 kg CO2 – 5.80 kg CO2

Reishi™ carbon footprint vs leathers & other alternatives

Reishi™ carbon footprint vs leather and leather alternatives: Three Reishi’s™ options (cotton/recycled polyester/mycelium-only). Carbon footprint per m2 of Reishi produced in each scenario including its embedded fabric material choice (in kg CO2 eq. per m2)

— Reishi™

Beyond “vegan leathers”

Beyond “vegan leathers” A New Category of Material

Most industries are facing rising pressure to lower their environmental impact and are responding. The explosion in demand for both non-animal and non-plastic materials in fashion is a great example: it’s hard to ignore the recent boom in “alternative leather” products made from mycelium, cactus, grape, and various other “bio-based” materials. When it comes to carbon footprint, many of these new materials claim an edge over animal leathers—and that sounds great in theory. The problem? Many still use too much plastic to biodegrade effectively. Ultimately, that means little to no overall advantage over either animal or plastic leathers.

Why do they use plastic? It provides strength and performance properties that “bio-based,” “plant-based” material wouldn’t otherwise have. Plastic added during a manufacturing process to fibers of mycelium, cactus, grape, is needed to make these other materials strong. Reishi™, by contrast, is grown in a proprietary process that makes the mycelium itself strong—and that’s why Reishi™ doesn’t rely on plastic for performance. Grown as a biomaterial, not manufactured: that’s what differentiates Reishi™ from other vegan leathers, which are assembled from a combination of ingredients that include mycelium (or other plant material) and plastic.

Today, virtually all “vegan leathers” in the market are made from polyurethane (PU) and/or polyvinyl chloride (PVC)—plastics that can’t be easily recycled and contribute to the 91% of plastic that is not recycled globally. Plastic textiles, including “vegan leathers,” make up 36% of all global plastic waste.

So what does it take for a leather alternative to have a significant impact? Reduced carbon footprint is the obvious first step, and it’s clear that reducing plastic content is a must, too. But there’s a third criteria that most are failing to see: if a leather alternative is truly going to have an impact, it has to feel as good as leather, and function as well—if not better.

Reishi™ meets these criteria; but Reishi™ is not just a leather alternative—it’s a new class of material. Reishi™ is mycelium that is grown—not manufactured—in a proprietary process that makes it strong. As a result, Reishi™ is a custom-grown material that feels supple and soft, because it doesn’t rely on plastic for its structure. Reishi™ has its unique hand-feel because what you touch is mycelium.

We hear from brand partners that they don’t want to replace animal leather. They want something new, something exciting that aligns with their evolving values and opens creative doors. Here’s what first movers using Reishi™ had to say:

“I truly believe Reishi™’s future is a new category of premium material. Reishi is not leather and was not created to replace it. Reishi is a whole new natural material that offers a new perspective to our industry.” — Thibault Shockert, CdV CEO

“Our clients want luxury made from materials that feel good and that they feel good about.” — Nick Fouquet, Nick Fouquet founder

“Luxury is not about pure quality which you can measure. It’s also about sensuality, aesthetics. For me, it’s the first time that a company is able to produce a natural product which is matching or even exceeding the quality and durability and aesthetics of traditional leather. It’s a super achievement.” — Patrick Thomas, luxury Industry Leader and MycoWorks Board of Directors member

— Fine Mycelium™

Our technology

Our technology The Key to Low Environmental Footprint

Reishi™ is a custom-made biomaterial that compares in quality, performance, and hand-feel to high quality animal leathers. Fine Mycelium™ is the underlying technology in Reishi™, and is the key to its low footprint and high performance. Because it engineers mycelium cells into three dimensional structures that are densely entwined, the Fine Mycelium™ process results in enhanced strength, durability, and handfeel, outperforming both naturally occurring mycelium and “mushroom leather.”

Overview of the Fine Mycelium™ process

Unlike animal hides, however, we can decide on the physical properties of Fine Mycelium™ as it grows. This is what differentiates Fine Mycelium™ into a category of its own. Thin with a drape like lambskin, thick and stiff like calf, sized to minimize waste, or embedded with an optional textile for customized performance. Reishi™ can also be produced with no fabric—just mycelium. Optional fabric choice plays a major role in the total carbon footprint of Reishi™. For example, on its own, virgin cotton has a carbon footprint of 11.29 kg CO2 eq./kg, compared to 5.59 for virgin polyester and 1.11 for recycled polyester. Each of these dials can be tuned so as to yield something truly novel and provide designers a new set of tools. This is about much more than sustainability.

Reishi™ (mycelium-only) carbon footprint contribution

Carbon footprint contribution analysis for 1 m2 of finished Reishi™

— Impact

A holistic approach

A holistic approach Environmental Impact

As we consider the environmental impact of Reishi™, we strongly believe in taking a holistic view of understanding the material’s sustainability profile—carbon reporting is not enough on its own. So our LCA also shares some preliminary insights into the potential impact of Reishi™ on other environmental categories—things like health, ecotoxicity, water scarcity and land use.

Environmental footprint of Reishi™

Contribution of each impact category to the total environmental footprint of Reishi™

A note from the MycoWorks team

This is our first impact assessment; please consider it the first of many meaningful, data-driven discussions to come. Reishi’s initial carbon footprint of 2.76 kg CO2-eq per m2 is simply our starting point—assessed specifically for our first large-scale plant in South Carolina. As with other more mature industries, we expect continued carbon footprint reductions and greater implications for impact as we scale up our production and make our process more efficient. With such a promising starting point, we may very well be looking at a truly low-impact future of materials.

— References


Aves, A. R., Revell, L. E., Gaw, S., Ruffell, H., Schuddeboom, A., Wotherspoon, N. E., LaRue, M., & McDonald, A. J. (2022). First evidence of microplastics in Antarctic snow. The Cryosphere, 16(6), 2127–2145.
Bayer, E., & Mclntyre, G. (2020). Method for Producing Grown Materials and Products Made Thereby. https://patents.google.com/patent/US20170049059A1/en
Best Leather. (2022). What is bicast leather? https://bestleather.org/types-of-leather/bicast/
Bolt Threads, Inc. v. Ecovative Design LLC, (2019). https://casetext.com/case/bolt-threads-inc-v-ecovative-design-llc
DESSERTO®. (2022). DESSERTO®. https://desserto.com.mx/home
Dixit, S., Yadav, A., Dwivedi, P. D., & Das, M. (2015). Toxic hazards of leather industry and technologies to combat threat: a review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 87, 39–49.
Durlinger, B., Koukouna, E., Broekema, R., Van Paassen, M., & Scholten, J. (2017). Agri-footprint 4.0-Part 2: Description of data. Gouda, the Netherlands.
ecovative. (2022). Leather. https://www.ecovative.com/pages/leather
EPA United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2021). Plastics: Material-Specific Data. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/plastics-material-specific-data
Hildebrandt, J., Thrän, D., & Bezama, A. (2021). The circularity of potential bio-textile production routes: Comparing life cycle impacts of bio-based materials used within the manufacturing of selected leather substitutes. Journal of Cleaner Production, 287. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.125470
Hutton, M., & Shafahi, M. (2019). Water pollution caused by leather industry: a review. Energy Sustainability, 59094, V001T10A002.
Infinium. (2021). Vegan Leather Market (Product – Polyurethane, Recycled Polyester, and Bio Based; Application – Furnishing, Automotive, Footwear, Bags & Wallets, Clothing, and Other Applications): Global Industry Analysis, Trends, Size, Share and Forecasts to 2026. https://www.infiniumglobalresearch.com/consumer-goods-packaging/global-vegan-leather-market
IPCC. (2021). Technical Summary. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.
Jones, M., Gandia, A., John, S., & Bismarck, A. (2021). Leather-like material biofabrication using fungi. Nature Sustainability, 4(1), 9–16. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-00606-1
Joseph, K., & Nithya, N. (2009). Material flows in the life cycle of leather. Journal of Cleaner Production, 17(7), 676–682.
Khwaja, M. A. (2000). Environmental Impacts of Tanning and Leather Products Manufacturing Industry in NWFP (Pakistan).
MacLeod, M., Arp, H. P. H., Tekman, M. B., & Jahnke, A. (2021). The global threat from plastic pollution. Science, 373(6550), 61–65.
Maga, D., Galafton, C., Blömer, J., Thonemann, N., Özdamar, A., & Bertling, J. (2022). Methodology to address potential impacts of plastic emissions in life cycle assessment. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 27(3), 469–491. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-022-02040-1
Mogu. (2022). Mogu demonstration at “Biofabricate” conference.
Moreno Ruiz, E., Valsasina, L., FitzGerald, D., Brunner, F., Symeonidis, A., Bourgault, G., & Wernet, G. (2019). Documentation of changes implemented in the ecoinvent database v3.6. 0(5), 1–97.
Mycoworks. (2020). A story of superior quality. https://www.madewithreishi.com/stories/performance-results-q120
Mycoworks. (2022). Made with ReishiTM. https://www.mycoworks.com/products
MyloTM. (2022). Meet MyloTM. https://www.mylo-unleather.com/#meet-mylo
National Geographic. (2022). A Whopping 91 Percent of Plastic Isn’t Recycled. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/whopping-91-percent-plastic-isnt-recycled/
Natural Fiber Welding. (2021). How MIRUM® is made. https://blog.naturalfiberwelding.com/how-mirum-is-made
Otake, Y., Kobayashi, T., Asabe, H., Murakami, N., & Ono, K. (1995). Biodegradation of low‐density polyethylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and urea formaldehyde resin buried under soil for over 32 years. Journal of Applied Polymer Science, 56(13), 1789–1796.
Prabhu, A., Davis-Peccoud, J., van den Branden, J.-C., & Mattios, G. (2020). Solving the Consumer Plastics Puzzle. https://www.bain.com/insights/solving-the-consumer-plastics-puzzle/
Ruiz, M. (2013). Documentation of changes implemented in ecoinvent. 0(5).
Science based targets. (2022). Lead the way to a low-carbon future. https://sciencebasedtargets.org/how-it-works
Semiconductor industry association. (2021). 2021 State of the Industry Update. https://www.semiconductors.org/state-of-the-u-s-semiconductor-industry/
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020). leather. In Encyclopaedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/leather
The New York Times. (2022). How fashion giants recast plastic as good for the planet. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/12/climate/vegan-leather-synthetics-fashion-industry.html
Thomas, S., Rane, A. V., Kanny, K., Abitha, V. K., & Thomas, M. G. (2018). Recycling of polyurethane foams.
UNEP. (2018). Resolution 3/4 – United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme. United Nations Environment Programme, January, 1–6. https://papersmart.unon.org/resolution/uploads/k1900699.pdf
UNIDO. (2010). Future Trends in the World Leather. United Nations Industrial Development Organization, 120.
Vegea. (2022). Fashion. https://www.vegeacompany.com/v-textile/