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The scale of what we’re designing has shifted from products to companies, to economic systems.

Who we’re designing for has expanded from a solitary user to an intimately connected web of people, spanning the globe. New tools such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and biomimicry mean our design ambitions are limited only by our imagination.

Meanwhile, creativity has never been more important. The global economy is stuttering and disruptive technologies challenge established, business models.

The next big thing in design is circular.


A new mindset for business is emerging. It’s worth around a trillion dollars, will drive innovation in tomorrow’s companies, and reshape every part of our lives.

But making the shift isn’t easy. That’s why we created this guide: to help innovators create more elegant, effective, creative solutions for the circular economy. Solutions that are invaluable for people, give businesses a competitive advantage and are regenerative for our world.

What if you could redesign everything?


You might be questioning the health of our organizations, social systems, and business models. With good reason: companies are currently deeply rooted in a linear approach to growth – make, use, dispose of.

The design thinking approach that underpins this guide allows you to explore new ways to create sustainable, resilient, long-lasting value in the circular economy – giving you the creative confidence to redesign the world around you.

The shift is already in motion.

Ecovative makes fully compostable packaging products made from mushroom roots or ‘mycelium’ branded MycoComposite™.

Why it’s an example of the circular economy

In a circular economy, products can be designed to break down naturally after use as they would in the natural world. Ecovative’s environmentally friendly packaging has the protective properties of polystyrene packaging (EPS) but doesn’t contribute to the 8 million tonnes of plastic that enter our oceans every year. It can be safely disposed of at home.

How it works 

The founders of Ecovative Design were inspired by the way mushrooms growing on wood chips bonded them together with their roots. 

Moulding mushrooms

Ecovative uses mycelium – mushroom roots and low-value agricultural feedstock (part of the plants that cannot be used for food) to make their packaging. “

“We’re using mushrooms to create an entirely new class of materials which perform a lot like plastic.”

Mycelium is a fungal network of threadlike cells, that acts like a natural, self-assembling glue. It grows in 5-7 days without needing any light or water, digesting agricultural by-products and binding into any shape needed.

This enabled the team to create a new method of producing materials that can replace various products, including petroleum-based expanded plastics and particle boards made using carcinogenic formaldehyde.

The process

Ecovative introduces the low-value agricultural feedstock which is cleaned and inoculated with the mushroom tissue.

At the end of the process, the material goes through a dehydration and heat-treating process to stop the growth and to ensure the absence of spores or allergens.

The business so far

Since commercially launching in 2010, Ecovative has opened a new production facility and is supplying its packaging to a growing number of Fortune 500 companies.

The minimal processing required reduces the cost of the product. The technique can also use different feedstocks, allowing Ecovative to use locally available crops.

The company is also investigating further applications, such as insulation, consumer products, and new bio-materials.

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