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Clean Energy Industry Growth Forum 

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And the green goes to ... Ecovative Design (www.ecovativedesign.com), a Green Island, N.Y., ecostartup whose Ecocradle and Greensulate products just might change the way you package shipping items and insulate your home. Ecovative Design picked up a cool, green $10,000 for its efforts.

Ecovative Design's monetary prize was for "Best Venture" at the 22nd annual Clean Energy Industry Growth Forum, held in Denver Nov. 3-5. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory sponsored the three-day forum to showcase clean-energy industry and business developments.

What makes Ecovative Design special is the method the company uses to produce its packaging and insulating materials. It starts with locally available agriculture byproducts, such as rice hulls and cotton gin trash, and then introduces fungal mycelium using a patent-pending process to make its final product.

Mycelium is mushroom roots, which, after being introduced to the agriculture byproducts, transforms into a rigid, all-natural material with similar material properties to expanded polystyrene, or Styrofoam. Call it a Styrofoam buster, if you will.

The process can take from five to 10 days; when it's complete, it provides a safe (no spores, no allergens and no mushrooms popping up) and readily compostable product. Ecocradle and Greensulate both biodegrade easily in the compost pile, garden or landfill.

Ecovative Design wasn't the only big winner in Denver. Collecting "Outstanding Venture" awards of $5,000 each were Canadian wind-power company Exro Technologies (www.exro.com) and Colorado-based Evolutionary Genomics (www.evolgen.com), which focuses on gene research for biomass and biofuel products.

Other companies with promising products at the forum were Hydrovolts (www.hydrovolts.com) from Seattle, a company that specializes in development of renewable hydrokinetic energy that taps the power of water currents, and Coolerado (www.coolerado.com), whose superefficient air conditioning system cools twice as well as conventional AC units in hot, dry climates.

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