Italian company Capsula Mundi has introduced organic, biodegradable burial pods as an eco-friendly solution to a problem that keeps piling up: dead bodies.
Most people do not really enjoy talking about death – their own or that of some beloved relative or friend. Yet, like taxes, the cessation of life is one human condition we can count on. Folk wisdom tells us that those who fail to plan are planning to fail, and we don’t want that.
Believe it or not, U.S. burial grounds are filling up to maximum capacity. The nation’s main military cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, will be full in about 25 years. Because there is no additional space available for expansion around Arlington National Cemetery, there is no option to extend its physical boundaries.
But what if, instead of cutting down a tree to make your coffin, you could turn yourself into a tree? This is exactly what Capsula Mundi, Italian for “capsules of the world,” is proposing with their organic burial pods, made from all renewable materials, including starch plastic and plants (e.g., potatoes and corn).
Capsula Mundi designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel have envisioned “a different approach to the way we think about death.” They picked an egg shape for their burial containers because it is “an ancient and perfect form.”
Bretzel said the idea came about after he and Citelli noticed tons of furniture in the trash after the famous “Salone del Mobile” design fair:
“We started thinking about projects that could have an environmental aspect. Death is part of our life but at design fairs nobody cares about that because it’s one side of our life that we don’t want to look at. We don’t like to think of death as part of life.”
A body in the fetal position is enclosed in a biodegradable burial capsule and then planted with a seed or sapling. Alternatively, cremated remains can be placed in a biodegradable, egg-shaped Bios urn that stores ashes below a soil mixture with an embedded seed that derives its nourishment from the ashes.
The tree is not included with the burial pod or urn. This allows someone living to select their own tree “as a legacy for posterity and the future of our planet.” Instead of bringing flowers to place on a grave marker, relatives and friends of the deceased will provide care for the growing tree, manifesting their love and respect not only for their dearly departed one, but for the whole Earth.
Jennifer DeBruyen, an Associate Professor of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at the University of Tennessee, explained why planting a tree is so much preferable to cutting one down in order to fashion a coffin:
“A lot of energy also goes into producing these materials, which are used for a very short time and then buried. They’re not going to break down very fast.”
The Capsula Mundi prototype was revealed at the 2016 Przemiany Festival in Warsaw, Poland. The eco-friendly burial option was presented in New Zealand the following year.
Ironically, it is illegal in Italy to bury human remains as future trees. However, the founders of Capsula Mundi are working to change that.
Imagine memorial parklands full of trees replacing graveyards full of tombstones. Can you think of a lovelier way to honor and cherish ourselves and our loved ones for generations to come?