We all know that mushrooms are a sustainable vegetable but what makes the mushroom the most sustainable out there?

Now we know that some foods are more sustainable than others which is why vegan and plant-based diets are the most sustainable ways to live.

But sustainability goes beyond just one diet or one type of food over another.

It actually goes a lot deeper than that.

For example, growing and harvesting olive oil is significantly more sustainable than producing palm oil.

Both are oils but one is a more sustainable option. The same applies to vegetables.

So what makes a mushroom sustainable? A big reason is its growing process.

Mushrooms can generate high yields from a very small physical footprint.

In 2017-18, about 1 square mile of growing area produced about 891 million pounds of mushrooms sold in the US.

That’s a lot harder to imagine in your head when you realise that mushrooms are actually grown indoors.

That’s right! If mushrooms aren’t found in the wild then they are grown in a ‘mushroom house’.

Traditionally, mushroom houses have a concrete exterior with layers of wooden beds for the mushrooms to grow.

But newer variations are constructed from more energy-efficient materials and have extra vertical growing space on the aluminium beds.

Just in case they didn’t sound fancy enough, they are also automated.

You can manage the temperature, humidity and fresh air remotely or automatically which can sometimes be done through an app on the owner’s phone.

This makes them incredibly sustainable to grow. Especially when their growth cycle is taken into account.

A mushroom’s growth cycle is about 6 to 10 weeks which means that a mushroom farm can produce as many as 8 crops per year.

This rapid growth cycle means that the mushroom farm is constantly in use and produces a large number of mushrooms over the course of a year.

That’s what I like to call, making use of a lack of space!

Being able to get multiple harvests out of the same crop is how mushrooms are so sustainable.

Low input results in a large output.

Following harvest, the substrate that produced the mushrooms has multiple uses.

These include mine reclamation projects, green roofs, landscaping and home gardening, application on field or vegetable crops and various forms of reuse within the mushroom industry.

As you can imagine, this means that mushroom farms generate very little waste.

Mushroom farm
Mushroom Farm

That means that if mushroom growers are smart, energy and water consumption levels can be kept to a minimum through the reuse of such materials.

There are environmental and pest management plans out there to help mushroom farmers with this and to keep the process as sustainable as possible.

Mushrooms also produce far less carbon dioxide (CO2) compared to other types of vegetables, as found by a study conducted by The Mushroom Council.

Reports showed that every 1 pound of mushrooms emits about 0.7 pounds of CO2 emissions.

Between all of these points made, it is clear why mushrooms are leading the race for the most sustainable vegetable.

Although, one downside is the lack of being able to grow these from home as they need very specific growing conditions.

But if future developments in technology can get this to happen, not only will it be the most sustainable vegetable for farmers to grow but will be overall the most sustainable mushroom.

Unfortunately, that is something we won’t know for many years and you never know, by then, a new contender for the most sustainable vegetable may arise.