Over the past year, the most sought-after material was something you’ve probably never given too much thought about: lumber. As the housing market boomed and more people were looking to update and renovate their homes, the price of wood skyrocketed.
On the surface, it looks like a simple supply and demand issue. But scientists believe climate change is the underlying problem, as a warming climate is what caused tree-attacking pine beetles to live longer and reproduce more quickly. That decades-old beetle infestation is what is said to have caused the wood shortage in the United States in the first place.
Luckily, there’s a sustainable wood alternative out there that can help fight the demand for wood and help the planet at the same time. And it’s made out of something pretty unlikely: kombucha. Yes, the bubbly gut-boosting beverage you can find at every grocery store.
Sustainable Wood Made from Kombucha
The idea for creating sustainable wood from kombucha stemmed from 21-year-old Gabe Tavas, the winner of the 2021 USA James Dyson Award—an international design award run by the James Dyson Foundation, which celebrates budding inventors’ new ideas.
Tavas was on a mission to make wood without having to cut down trees in the process—a primary driver of deforestation. So he came up with Pyrus—a petroleum-free material that’s sustainably produced with repurposed bacterial cellulose waste from brewing kombucha.
In the past year, Tavas has created 74 Pyrus wood samples (with varying colors and textures) that have already been tested on several pieces found in woodworking shops. There’s no better time to have a sustainable wood alternative in the works, as a recent report just found 30% of trees are at risk of extinction.
How Pyrus Is Made
According to Tavas, wood contains two essential ingredients: cellulose, which provides its basic shape and framework, and lignin, which acts as a glue that holds everything together. These sheets of cellulose are blended and embedded into a gel. As the gel is drying, it becomes hard and is put under a mechanical press to form a flat sheet. This material then has the ability to be sanded, cut, and coated with resins, just like regular wood.
Because Pyrus uses kombucha waste, it’s a much more environmentally-friendly option than its wood-alternative counterparts. Tavas’ plan is to put his award winnings toward expanding his production facilities and developing 3D printing processes. Hopefully, all his hard work makes this an option that’s eventually sold right alongside other lumber.
Want to learn more? Take a look at Tavas’ application video below:
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