About Life Boxes, told by Paul Stamets
All my life, I have loved watching life emerge. Knowing that all plants are infused with fungi and that fungi are essential for our foodwebs, I started to experiment with combining seeds and mycorrhizal spores and was astonished by the results. The mycorrhized plants surged in their growth compared to the same plants without mycorrhizae. The mycorrhizal mycelium enhances the root nutrient-absorption zone of plants by hundreds of times. Knowing the benefits of marrying plants and fungi, and that deforestation is exacerbating climate change, I focused my attention on the roles of fungi in helping forest ecosystems.
While growing many wood-decomposing mushrooms, my friends and I discovered the ‘wonders of cardboard’ for growing mycelium. Silky, diverging forks of mycelium would happily race down the valleys within the folds of corrugated cardboard. Having myco-mulched with cardboard for many years, I realized that cardboard could become a growth medium for encouraging guilds – communities – of fungi and plants symbiotically working together. Then, the epiphany hit me like a lightning bolt. Why not re-invent the cardboard box so each box becomes a designed ecosystem?
I’ve been working on the Life Box™ idea for 10 years, and the beginning was definitely a comedy of errors. I’ve played around with many different combinations of seeds and used different tools. I realized that I needed to find a manufacturing company that understood the social and environmental importance of the Life Box. Most companies politely showed me the door once I proposed the idea. A family attended one of my seminars that had been following my work. The brothers, David and Barry Censi turned out to be manufacturing experts and had ideas to bring the Life Box to market. A custom piece of machinery for producing the Life Box was designed, developed and tested within a few months. We released the Life Box for sale in January of 2010 and we are looking forward to continue our forward momentum of providing a sustainable packaging solution for years to come!
The Life Box is a perfect example of a product that closes the loop on a cycle that begins and ends with Life. Once delivered, a regular cardboard box dies at your doorstep, so to speak. The conventional brown box serves only the purpose of delivering a product. And then, at best, it is recycled. The Life Box is not just a box – it is a teaching tool that unfolds into a continuing, life-long experience. It empowers individuals with the ability to sequester carbon by planting trees and making a positive difference. The Life Box has ‘legs’, or more aptly trees, which will remind the receiver for years to come of their own thoughtfulness and that of the company who shipped it. The shared experience of everyone involved builds a community of those trying to help the planet with a long-lasting and sustainable solution to climate change.
Since its release in January of 2010, the Life Box has received two awards; the Opportunity Green 2010 Product Design Award for its innovative green design, and the 2010 Green Packy Award for responsible packaging acheivement while partnering with sister company Fungi Perfecti on providing packaging for their Host Defense mycomedicinal line of products.
If you wish to learn more about the beneficial properties of mushrooms and other fungi, please visit the website of our affiliated company Fungi Perfecti for more information.
To People and Planet!