FIFTH IN A SERIES ON GREEN(ER) CHOICES
Green (or Natural) Burial
Today we’re featuring a couple of my favorite green burial options, the Infinity Burial Suit and Recompose. And, if you haven’t yet learned about other body disposition options, check out the entire Body Disposition Series.
First, though, let’s talk about what makes a burial green. Generally, a green burial is described as one where the body is interred directly into the earth, in a biodegradable shroud or casket, and without chemical embalming. The goal is to allow the complete decomposition of the body into the soil. More broadly speaking, green burial focuses on simple body preparation and attention to the environmental impact of the body disposition process.
Green burials are nothing new. In fact, most burials before the 19th century were done this way, and many Jewish and Muslim burials have always been done this way. People are actively choosing green burials now, however, due to their simplicity, cost effectiveness, and environmental friendliness.
The Infinity Burial Suit
The brainchild of two designers, the Infinity Burial Suit (or the Mushroom Death Suit) is basically a hooded, black onesie impregnated with a specific strain of mushroom spores that excel at breaking down a body into clean compost (and making you look like a bad-ass ninja while wearing it). Through a process called mycoremediation, the mushrooms digest even the nearly 300 toxic chemicals we carry in our bodies, rendering them innocuous to the surrounding soil and plant life. A mushroom shroud is also available, as is a burial suit for pets. To get a look at the suit, made in the U.S.A. and commercially available since early 2016, check out the Ted Talk.
Formerly called the Urban Death Project, Recompose is a public benefit corporation formed by founder and CEO Katrina Spade (I kid you not) and “powered by people who believe in changing the current death care paradigm by offering a gentle, humane, and ecological model.” Briefly, the Recompose model is designed to meet the needs of folks in urban areas where land is scarce. Recomposition occurs in a re-usable pod where the body is covered in wood chips and aerated, creating the perfect environment for microbes to do their work. In about a month, the body becomes soil suitable for families to take home. Recompose estimates carbon savings of one metric ton per person recomposed vs. contemporary burial or cremation.
Although not yet available, Recompose currently has a bill before the Washington State Legislature to legalize human composting. If approved, the first Recompose facility in the world will be built in Seattle.
Dust to Dust…
Bottom line? You can make any burial greener by omitting embalming and utilizing a biodegradable casket or shroud. We’ll explore green cemeteries next time.
How do you feel about the two options discussed here? Haven’t you always wanted to be a ninja? What would you do with your loved one’s recomposed remains? Tell us!