Ryan Lewis Martin
Alvin Mites, Nederland entrepreneur and fungi enthusiast, is turning his attention to the problems of sludge disposal and fire mitigation that plague communities locally and globally. In Colorado alone, 1.7 million acres require fire mitigation action this year, which often involves expensive logging and tree removal.
Sludge, the solid by-product of our sewage, is also expensive to store and remove. While current practices treat these logged trees and sewage sludge as waste, Mites envisions a world where these by-products can be inoculated with fungi spores to speed up decomposition, lowering costs and offering an environmentally conscious alternative.
“A waste is a resource waiting to be utilized,” said Mites Mites is focused on the expensive issue of shipping sludge to a facility down the hill from Nederland’s new waste treatment plant. With an official endorsement from the Nederland Sustainability Advisory Board to request funding from the town of Nederland, he, along with Greg Wilson and a few other associates, are moving forward with the project.
“My vision is to build massive hügelkultur mounds to absorb and direct water retention using inoculated dead pine,” said Mites. “I want to mix the sludge with inoculated pine slash which will help minimize transportation costs.”
The common solution to dealing with the massive amounts of sludge our society produces is to burn it; however, this method is energy intensive, requires expensive equipment and is harmful to the environment. Mushrooms not only can cut sludge transportation costs and reduce sludge incineration, but can also provide a positive net effect to the surrounding environment.
Fungi retain water and, as decomposers, are a vital component of healthy ecosystems. Combining a simple idea and the work of these complex organisms, Mites is optimistic of the immeasurable possibilities that fungi yield.
“Mushrooms are nature’s recyclers,” said Mites. They have millions and millions of years of experience. We just need to figure out how to utilize them.”
Still in a developing state, Mites hopes that with more funding and resources, he can further advance and expand the project. “The biggest issue we face is figuring out how this will work on a larger scale. The steps are amazingly simple, but it gets more complex as you scale up.”
Although a far- reaching prospect, Mites is convinced that his goals are attainable. He is inspired by the success of researcher Paul Stamets, who has received support from groups such as the Environmental Protection Agency for his work on the potential of mushrooms for ecological restoration. With more funding and an increase in public participation, success for Mites’ projects may be just around the corner.
“The proof of concept is there and has been laid out,” said Mites. “Let’s develop locally and deal with the problems we face here. Doing so will effect far more than just here.”
If you want more information, check out Alvin’s website: mycomountain.org.