Biodegradable Burial Containers for Green Burial: Part 3 – Strange & Unusual
This is the last blog in our series, ‘Biodegradable Burial Containers for Green Burial.’ Part 1 covered the what & why behind green burial containers and reviewed the first and most simple option, burial shrouds. Part 2 explored the different green caskets and coffin options including cardboard coffins, wood caskets and coffins, and woven caskets. We are now approaching some of the more strange and unusual biodegradable burial containers. These aren’t for everyone but certain people will LOVE these options.
The Mushroom Suit – Infinity Burial Suit & Shroud by Coeio
You may have heard of the mushroom suit that claims to use mushrooms to aid in the decomposition and detoxification of the body. It might sound strange, but many people love the idea of mushrooms helping to break down their body or the idea of becoming part of a mycelial network. How does it work?
“The Infinity Burial Suit is a handcrafted garment that is worn by the deceased… The Infinity Burial Suit has a built in biomix, made up of of mushrooms and other microorganisms that together do three things; aid in decomposition, work to neutralize toxins found in the body and transfer nutrients to plant life. The end result of being buried in the Infinity Burial Suit, or any of Coeio’s products, is that bodies are transformed into vital nutrients that enrich the earth and foster new life.”
In order to understand the potential benefit of the mushroom suit, it’s important to remember that nature is extremely intelligent and the body goes through a natural process of decay; your body does not require a mushroom suit to do that. Add on to that the fact that mycelial strains already exist underground (I have seen them myself when digging a grave) – why is there a need to purchase a mushroom suit containing fungal strains that are not known to breakdown human flesh? What is unique about their claim is the mushroom’s ability to neutralize toxins and help carry nutrients to plant life. This is a big claim and although they describe the scientific process, there currently aren’t any scientific papers being cited on their site. But even if the mushroom suit does as it claims and helps to neutralize toxins – again, is that necessary and do you need a mushroom suit to achieve that effect? To understand these questions better, here is an excellent article that goes deep into the science of mushrooms and body decomposition.
I know I’ve just rained on some people’s parade, but it’s important to think critically about our options, that we make sure product claims are backed by good science, and that we don’t get too swept away with the romanticism of an idea. Spending $1500 for something that nature does perfectly well on its own is a lot to spend. That being said, if you really like the idea of the mushroom suit, then the Infinity Burial Suit might be for you.
Infinity Burial Options
There is an option of an Infinity Burial Suit or an Infinity Burial Shroud (to learn more about shrouds, see Part 1). The suit and shroud are made from organic cotton, range from sizes small to large, and come in black or natural. There is a version for pets that ranges from extra small (small fish, hamster) to large (medium-large sized dogs).
Infinity Burial Suit/Shroud Cost
$75-$250 for pets, $1500 for humans (includes shipping)
Where To Buy Infinity Burial Products:
Burial Pods – Turning Your Body Into A Tree
The idea of your body becoming a tree can be appealing – there’s something poetic and comforting about your remains going back into the earth and repeating the cycle of life. That’s probably part of the reason that Capsula Mundi has captured the imagination of so many with the design of their Burial Pod, which connects an entombed body to the root structure of a tree. Even though these burial pods are still in the design phase and aren’t on the market yet, they’re still receiving a lot of attention. Here’s how they work (from the Capsula Mundi website):
“The body is first encapsulated into a fetal position in order to fit inside of the burial pod. The pod looks like an earthy piece of art, but really it’s a biodegradable “casket… Once the burial pod is buried deep underground a tree seed or a young tree is placed directly above, and from one source of life sparks another.”
This might sound great but I can tell you from a burial perspective, this presents a lot of logistical challenges, which might be part of the reason that it has been in the design phase since 2003. Here are the obvious challenges: Getting the body into the fetal position and placing it into the pod; transporting the pod with the entombed body to the burial site; digging a hole sufficient for the egg shape (remember that many green cemeteries dig the holes by hand); lowering the pod with an attached tree into the hole. I can tell you for certain that this is not something we would do at Carolina Memorial Sanctuary even if we wanted to (it sounds like a logistical nightmare). But if you are one of the people who loves this idea, there is good news: this same effect can be achieved with a green burial. If you opt for a memorial planting (where a plant or tree is placed above or near your grave after burial), or you choose a burial site next to a tree, you are essentially achieving the same effect. The decomposition of the body provides nutrients to plant life and is one of the basic premises of green burial and part of the reason why green cemeteries dig between 2.5 – 3.5 feet (the deeper you go, the further you get from plant root structures). Don’t get me wrong, I think the burial pod is aesthetically beautiful and I love the spirit in which this project was born… but it’s important to know that the same effect can be achieved through basic green burial, when you choose to have a memorial planting above your grave or pick a spot near an established plant.
Burial Pod Options
Capsula Mundi is working on designs for the human body, which hasn’t come to market yet. There are different trees you can choose from and the hope is to have local tree planting options as well. Although an option for human body burial doesn’t exist yet, they have a similar egg shaped urn for cremated remains. However, there isn’t enough information available to determine if these meet green burial standards.
Burial Pod Cost
Not on the market yet.
Learn More About Burial Pods
Recompose – Human Composting
“Human composting” almost sounds like something out of a science fiction novel (i.e. Soylent Green). Even though this is technically not a biodegradable burial container, I would be remiss not to mention it in this article focusing on the strange and unusual – especially considering its eco-friendly focus. Recompose is a company based in Washington state that has developed the technology to compost human remains (they call it “natural organic reduction”). The body is placed in a hexagonal vessel and through an organic process, the body breaks down over 30 days, resulting in soil that families can take home. This technology was designed to address the issue of land scarcity in urban areas, providing an earth friendly way to dispose of human remains without taking up more green space; and a more environmentally friendly alternative to cremation (cremation is not good for the environment). Natural organic reduction was legalized in Washington state this year and Recompose is in the process of raising money to complete their first facility (their goal is to open in Seattle by late 2020). They hope that this catches on across the US and around the globe, and are looking for other states in the US to push for its legalization. They are also looking for investors. You can learn more about it on their FAQ page.
Recompose|SEATTLE aims to open late 2020.
The goal is to provide this service for $5,500.
How To Choose Recompose
Recompose isn’t ready to take pre-arrangements, but have a mailing list where you can be notified when they get to that stage.
Three blogs later, we have covered quite a number of biodegradable burial containers options. From the most basic shroud to a mushroom suit that helps decompose your body – there is an option for anyone interested in green burial. It is a wonderful turning of the tide that a more earth-friendly, simple and economical approach to burial exists. You can see the complete list of Green Burial Council Certified Products here. If you’re interested in cremation you can find our other blog about green burial options for cremated remains.
Originally published 8.12.17. Updated 8.16.19.
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