How Kelp, Seaweed, and Algae can Save the Planet

First things first: what’s the difference between kelp and algae?

Broken down simply, from “smallest” to “largest”: kelp → seaweed → algae

Meaning: all kelp is seaweed, and all seaweed is algae, but not all algae is seaweed, and not all algae is kelp.


how is algae saving the planet? 

Kelp & Algae: climate regenerative power houses

Climate change is wreaking havoc on our planet, and scientists are turning to kelp as a potential climate change solution. Specifically, kelp is fighting climate change by absorbing carbon emissions, regenerating marine ecosystems, creating biofuel and renewable plastics, and generating marine protein.

are kelp forest better than trees for carbon sequestration?

Trees get a lot of recognition when it comes to naturally absorbing carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and converted into biomass (aka branches and leaves) when trees photosynthesize and grow, which makes this process a naturally occurring technology to fight climate change. 


Deforestation and forest degradation, however, is threatening the potential benefit of trees as a climate solution because tree removal releases carbon back into the atmosphere and the benefits of carbon sequestration are undone. 

How does kelp help carbon sequestration?

Unlike trees, kelp is not vulnerable to the same deforestation and forest degradation risks, and this is why kelp has emerged as one of the biggest players in the fight against climate change. 


Kelp is a microalgae that is particularly special because it permanently removes carbon from the atmosphere.

how does kelp actually remove carbon from the atmosphere?

Kelp grows close to rocky shores and in conditions that prevent the plant material from getting buried. The kelp plant grows little bladders filled with air that help it float on the surface, exposing it to more photosynthesis. 


Over time, pieces of the plant’s biomass are transported to the deep sea, where they are left relatively undisturbed. The bladders pop and the plant biomass sinks to the bottom of the ocean, where scientists believe the carbon dioxide is sequestered and stored for up to millions of years.   

One study estimated that microalgae such as kelp sequesters approximately 200 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.


That’s almost as much as the annual emissions from the state of California!

...it even prevents carbon from entering the atmosphere

Kelp is a source of protein and is high in nutrients, which makes it a sustainable alternative to factory farmed meat. It also grows up to two feet per day, which means it quickly reproduces. 


There are even applications of seaweed that make animals more climate friendly. For instance, a type of red microalgae has been found to help reduce methane production from ruminant animals (AKA: cow farts) by up to 99% when added to their diet, which is significant because cows produce about 220 pounds of methane annually. 

One study estimated that microalgae such as kelp sequesters approximately 200 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.


That’s almost as much as the annual emissions from the state of California!

Kelp as a building block for sustainable solutions

You might not know this, but kelp has also become an increasingly large part of our daily lives. Typically when we think of kelp, images of the beautiful picturesque California kelp forests, kelp forest biomes, sea otters who live in kelp forests, and even the Spongebob’s Bikini Bottom kelp forest come to mind. But kelp is increasingly being used day to day consumer goods like ink and plastic alternatives. You may even find it in your cosmetics!


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, global seaweed production has significantly increased over the past decade because seaweed is being increasingly used as a food source, a carbon sink option and a renewable product. It’s grabbed the attention of consumers, farmers, researchers, and business leaders alike. According to one report, the global seaweed market was worth approximately $59.61 billion in 2019. 


Sustainable Algae Inks and Algae Plastics increasing Circular Life Cycle of Materials

Inks and plastics are some of the most polluting materials on the planet. Pigments are typically made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a type of heat-resistant plastic. Traditional plastics are made from petroleum byproducts. And that’s why innovators developed algae based alternatives that are carbon negative (because of the carbon sequestration) and mostly biodegradable. Inks and plastics made from algae are mostly circular in design, which is important because circular goods reduce the amount of waste and help extend the life cycle of materials. 


Mushroom Design and Algae Ink

In order to stay true to our mission as a climate friendly company, Mushroom Design brings the concept of closing the loop to the world of health and wellness. It’s very important to have sustainability at the forefront of our brand’s ethos as well as product, and we have implemented this by using algae based ink in our packaging and printing, and we reduce all marketing materials to digital or direct-on-box only. The algae ink can be used for shipping packaging, retail packaging, and marketing materials.  


Innovative ways businesses can incorporate algae to be more sustainable

There are so many ways for businesses to become carbon neutral and incorporate sustainability into their business model. The first step is to look at the complete operations of your company, including supply chain, and identify your footprint. That way you can identify the areas where you have the greatest climate impact, find ways to reduce it, and then find ways to neutralize the impact of the remaining emissions by doing things like supporting kelp forest restoration or purchasing emissions offsets.