For my upcycle project I decided to focus on mycelium. What is mycelium? Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus (aka mushroom roots). Mycelium is a key element of our ecosystem because it helps with decomposition and absorbs nutrients . I learned about mycelium while working as a graduate student in the Living Matter Lab at ATLAS. In this lab, I was exposed to many different kinds of biodesign and sustainable materials. I was inspired by many different artists and companies making both functional and artistic pieces out of mycelium.
Lampshades from Ecovative Design 
Architectural structures made by Carlo Ratti for Milan Design Week 
Dress from MycoTEX 
So far, I have successfully grown mycelium from a package of oyster mushrooms I purchased at the grocery store and used coffee grounds from Pekoe (coffee shop in the ATLAS building). This process included chopping the oyster mushrooms into small pieces and mixing them with the coffee grounds. I then sterilized plastic containers I found from various recycling bins around ATLAS, choosing clear takeout bowls and dried seaweed packages. Once my containers were set up, I filled them with the mushroom coffee mixture. I then covered each container with tin foil and placed them in an unused cabinet in the back of the Living Matter Lab. After not touching the cabinet for about a month and a half (I started growing these before winter break), I have happy, healthy mycelium!
Side View of Mycelium
Top View of Mycelium
Moving forward I plan to make a minimalist pot for plants because I find it ironic to grow more plants in a plant pot. To do this I am going to create a new growing mixture of woodchips (from the BTU lab), all-purpose flour (from home), and water. I will then mix part of my mycelium into this mixture and place it into my sterilized mold (two plastic bowls I have at home). I will then place it all back into the cabinet and wait a week. Hopefully, within this week, the mycelium will grow all around the woodchips creating a solid white form. Once the form is done growing, I can take it out of the mold and bake it in the oven, effectively killing the living mycelium leaving a durable pot made from mushrooms. I am following the process detailed in an Instructables by ariellehein .
While this is not upcycling in a traditional sense (I had to buy mushrooms), all my other materials were reused and free (aka used coffee grounds from Pekoe, woodchips from the BTU trash, containers from the recycling bin, etc.). On another note, because of the time-consuming nature of growing mycelium and the possibilities of bad bacteria infecting the sample, I am choosing to keep my object simple and small, making the minimalist aesthetic perfect for this project.
 W. Crosby, “What is Mycelium: Nature’s World Wide Web Underneath Our Feet”, Fungi Ally, Jun. 8, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://fungially.com/what-is-mycelium-natures-world-wide-web/. [Accessed Jan. 26, 2020].
 Ecovative Design, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://ecovativedesign.com/. [Accessed Jan. 26, 2020].
 P. Stevens, “carlo ratti unveils architectural structures made of mushrooms for milan design week”, designboom, Apr. 9, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.designboom.com/architecture/carlo-ratti-mycelium-circular-garden-structure-milan-design-week-04-09-2019/. [Accessed Jan. 26, 2020].
 “MycoTEX proof-of-concept”, NEFFA, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://neffa.nl/portfolio/mycotex/. [Accessed Jan. 26, 2020].
 Ariellehein, “Mycelial Forms”, Instructables, 2019. [Website]. Available: https://www.instructables.com/id/Mycelial-Forms/. [Accessed Jan. 26, 2020].