The Mushroom Sustainability Story
A mushroom sustainability study reveals the mighty mushroom not only is healthy on the plate, it’s also gentle on the planet.
The study finds production of a pound of mushrooms requires only 1.8 gallons of water and 1.0 kilowatt hours of energy, and generates only .7 pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions. In addition, the annual average yield of mushrooms is 7.1 pounds per square foot, meaning up to 1 million pounds of mushrooms can be produced on just one acre.
Water Required is a Fraction Compared to Other Foods
To calculate the overall water footprint per pound of production, researchers collected information on fresh water applied, precipitation and water embedded in the composting ingredients. The 1.8 gallons of water required to produce a pound of mushrooms is a fraction of water inputs required for many other foods.
Keeping CO2 Emissions and Energy Footprint in Check
To determine the 1.0 kilowatt hours (kWh) energy usage per pound of mushrooms, researchers calculated energy consumed during harvest by converting fuel use by type into kWh, then combined that with kWh of electricity use. CO2 equivalent emissions were calculated by tracking total emissions from electricity and fuel used for composting equipment and growing operations (e.g. equipment, heating, cooling, etc.).
Mushrooms’ Small Growing Space Conserves Soil, Nets High Yields
The study calculated the average yield per square foot by measuring more than 42 million square feet of mushroom production area. Each year, growers are able to produce millions of pounds of mushrooms on just a few acres of land. In addition, the soil used to produce mushrooms is made of composted materials. After mushrooms are harvested, the soil is recycled for multiple uses, including potting soil. The 7.1 pounds of mushroom yield per square foot is achieved in part because mushroom beds are stacked vertically in growing facilities, allowing a high volume of mushrooms to be grown in a relatively small space.
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*The Mushroom Sustainability Story: Water, Energy and Climate Environmental Metrics 2017 study, produced by leading sustainability analysis and research firm SureHarvest, is the result of a two-year initiative to document mushroom production environment metrics. Additionally, SureHarvest and UC Davis researchers collaborated on a life cycle assessment study of mushroom production in the United States: Robinson, B., Winans, K., Kendall, A. et al. Int J Life Cycle Assess (2019) 24: 456. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-018-1456-6.