Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. This phrase, which has its origins in the Bible (Genesis 3:19), conveys the idea that all human beings – and in general all living beings – are destined to decompose and return to being “dust” after death. However, would we be willing to be buried in a biodegradable container, so that our body really returns, after death, to be part of the ecosystem without leaving any trace?
One of the most recent solutions of this type is Living Cocoon, developed by the Dutch startup Loop Biotech: a “living” coffin made of mycelium, the vegetative system of mushrooms, formed by an intertwining of filaments that branch underground.
Living Cocoon was developed by Bob Hendrikx, together with researchers from Delft University of Technology and the Naturalis natural history museum.
This wrapper closely resembles transport packaging consisting of mycelium, which replaces plastic foams, such as polystyrene, for example for wine bottles.
Replacing the wood of traditional coffins with mycelium would have a positive impact on both the speed of production and the reduction of resource consumption. The mycelium takes 7 days to grow using waste materials and 30-45 days to disappear once buried in the earth. Furthermore, a human body buried in a mycelium coffin is estimated to decompose in 3 years, compared to 10-20 for traditional crates.
The Living Cocoon coffin was first used in 2020 to bury a person in the Netherlands. This “green burial” initiative is now set to roll out progressively: in August 2022, Dela ,the country’s leading funeral service provider, announced the inclusion of Loop coffins in its range of burial and cremation accessories.
Another less recent project, but equally significant, is, Capsula Mundi, an Italian proposal of 2016 for a biodegradable egg-shaped urn, planted like a seed in the earth and on top of which a tree is planted, chosen in life by the deceased. which will be cared for by family and friends, as a symbolic legacy for posterity and the future of the planet.
Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel, the designers who developed this urn currently marketed in Italy, had originally developed in 2003 a larger container where it was possible to place the deceased’s body in a fetal position, evoking the womb. Unfortunately, due to limitations due to current legislation, it has not yet been possible to implement the project on the national territory.
Green burials are in fact allowed in many countries, especially those of Anglo-Saxon culture, but not yet in Italy, where the current cemetery legislation – the core of which dates back to a “Royal Decree” of 1934 – places a series of restrictions on burials ” greens.
Recently, however, the use of biodegradable urns has been simplified, which in fact are equated with the dispersion of ashes.
The Urna Bios project was developed by the designer Gerard Moliné, co-founder with his brother Roger of the Moliné design studio, starting from an idea he had while walking with his grandmother in the family garden. Finding a dead bird, Gerard’s grandmother, instead of throwing it in the garbage, decided to make a hole in the ground and bury it along with seeds: that experience inspired the creation of Urn Bios.
The Bios Urn is made up of two parts: the ash is placed in the lower body and the soil and nutrients necessary for the correct germination of the selected seed are placed in the upper capsule. The urn is planted about 5 centimeters from the surface. The separation of the two parts allows the seed to germinate separately from the ash; when the process of decomposition of the urn begins, the roots of the shoot come into contact with the ash, both becoming part of its subsoil.
The success and international recognition of Urna Bios over the years has meant that the project evolved and aimed in 2016 to complement the biodegradable container with a seed incubator solution.
This idea, promoted on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter , derives from the habit of many people who have used Urna Bios, “planting” it in a pot until the seed sprouts and grows enough to be transplanted to a permanent place where it will continue to grow. Thus was born Bios Incube, an intelligent pot equipped with a sensor that monitors the growing conditions of the plant and sends the information to an app that keeps the user informed.
Humanity has always dedicated countless resources to give their deceased a ritual burial worthy of their memory. From simple burial to funeral pyres, peoples of the past have honored their dead in a myriad of ways.
But some cultures have gone further, trying to preserve the bodies of the dead even long after their burial, as in the case of the ritual embalming of ancient Egypt.
We will never be completely sure of the reason for these efforts, but these practices have been kept alive over time, up to the present day, perhaps in response to the taboo of death and the anguish in the face of the limitation of life.
However, even though as human beings we are used to perceiving death as an end, in nature there is no real end, everything is cyclical and optimized to perpetuate life in a sustainable way.
And although the impact of our death is certainly much lower than that of our life and our consumption choices, it is still important to be aware of it and try to return to the earth by polluting as little as possible, also thanks to ethical and responsible solutions. which are real sustainable “funeral packaging”.