As more and more consumers flex their purchasing power muscles toward products falling into the category of “sustainable,” manufacturers are listening and starting to provide those products to retailers.
When a product comes along that somehow utilizes cotton, or any part of the cotton plant, that’s when the professionals at Cotton Incorporated can flex their research and promotion muscles to form an invaluable partnering alliance.
One company, Ecovative Design, approached Greg Holt, agricultural engineer at the USDA/ARS Ginning Laboratory in Lubbock, Texas, with questions about using cotton plant matter to form their innovative packaging product called EcoCradle.
Founded in 2007, Ecovative is passionate about sustainability. The company works with naturally-occurring substrates to create products that can replace unsustainable plastics and foams.
“The first step in our EcoCradle process is to pasteurize the cotton burrs, eliminating any bacteria, mold or bugs that may be left on them from the field,” says Sam Harrington, Design Engineer at Ecovative.
The cotton burrs are then blended with mycelium (mushroom roots), which are then pressed into low-cost molds that give the custom packaging its shape.
“The mycelium effectively digests the burrs (with no additional energy) and bonds the composite together,” says Harrington.
After growing for a week, the mixture is dried out, stopping its growth.
“Cotton Incorporated has been a huge help in forging important connections with suppliers and promoting our unique cotton-based product,” says Harrington.
Cotton Incorporated’s Marcy Gang, executive account manager, Global Supply Chain Manager, showcased EcoCradle at a recent JC Penney Innovation Expo, and it has also been featured in a recently produced Cotton Incorporated video entitled, “Innovation – Teaching an Old Plant New Tricks.”
The video can be viewed by going to http://cottontoday.cottoninc.com/sustainability-multimedia/.
The Cotton Board, which administers the Cotton Research and Promotion Program conducted by Cotton Incorporated, contributed information for this article. For more information, go to www.cottonboard.org.
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