Breaking The Boundaries Between Biology And Design
Carolina and I have a chat on her passion about designing through biology and how the world around us has so much to offer in terms of design. She’s started the platform @wegrowdesign, where she updates her audience about her research and is hoping to one day change the world of sustainable packaging through biology.
Can you tell us a little bit of yourself and @wegrowdesign?
I am Caro, I am 24 years old. I am currently studying the MA in Biodesign at Central Saint Martins in London. I started my journey towards designing with biology 2 years ago when I started growing mycelium by myself in an improvised home lab. My interests and work is related to how can we collaborate with nature to design materials for food packaging.
Can you tell us about the Scoby material and it’s uses, as I’ve seen images of this on your page?
Scoby stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast” and is a cellulose material that grows easily and resembles leather a bit once it’s dried. For some years now this material has been researched, but I believe there are still questions on whether its properties are good enough for a real life application.
It is a fun and easy material to grow, so I do encourage people to try it at home!
Can you tell us a little bit about the Mycelium project you’ve worked on?
Mycelium is the vegetative part of fungi, more commonly known as the “roots” and is the fungus mushrooms are made of. Mycelium, as I see, it has lots of potential. It’s a crazy organism that fascinates many people in the bio-design community! This material is more tricky to grow, so I have been exploring it in a DIY environment, including how to successfully make the mycelium composite material. While trying different methods and composites, and also exploring different shapes!.
What are some of the benefits of mushroom based packaging?
Mycelium can grow fast, it’s light, cheap, it’s a good insulator, and it’s also compostable. The issue nowadays is how to scale up the process of making this material. There are companies like ecovative or biohm really doing amazing work.
As a tool of healing, especially during these trying times how has this served as a powerful tool for you?
I have been listening to podcasts that descustruct different topics related to ecology, climate and racial justice, and biotechnology. It is a really interesting time to be alive in and for me it’s important to be informed, learn and observe and take action wherever needed.
What are some of the materials that you’ve worked with and see potential?
There is a big hype with bioplastics, especially algae based bioplastics. Many people are looking into them to find solutions to replace single-use plastics.
Do you see a future where materials made from mushrooms can replace plastic?
I think there is no magic material that can replace all the plastic that we are using nowadays. I believe different materials will emerge to slowly replace different applications of plastic. However, we need to really rethink how we consume as a society. We are overpopulated on this planet and are currently facing a climate emergency. We just cannot continue living and consuming materials as we are doing now.
Are there are any books on design that you can recommend to our listeners? As we also believe music is a tool that inspires our generation, what’s one tune that you’re currently listening to?
Some classic books on ecological design are “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we do things” by Michael Braungart and William McDonough and “Biomimicry” by Janine Banyus. These two are really eye opening.
Music wise, I am currently listening a lot to the tune “Black Dog” from Arlo Parks.