Everything about standard burial practices is bad news bears when it comes to the environment. Sinking lacquered coffins and metal caskets into the ground represent just the beginning of the problem. Approximately 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals enter the soil each year through embalmed bodies, not to mention that four million acres of forest end up in coffins. All told, the square footage of cemeteries in America totals one million acres!
Cremation isn’t much better. It releases gases like carbon monoxide, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and more into the air. No wonder people continue to look for more eco-friendly ways to leave this earth … and maybe leave it a better place.
Enter mushroom coffins. Invented by an intrepid Dutch inventor, these sustainable tombs offer sleek simplicity in a container guaranteed to decompose within 45 days.
Decomposing Trad Burial Practices
A traditionally embalmed body takes between five to ten years to decompose, leaving behind a pile of bones and a sludge of toxins. But of course, this figure depends on the embalming job, soil conditions, other environmental factors, and more.
Even the liner of a coffin can significantly impact the body’s condition over time. Once human remains skeletonize, all bets are off. It can take decades (or far longer) for bones to disintegrate.
How Green Burials Compare
Contrasted with green burials, the differences prove shocking. On average, bodies given natural burials experience major decomposition within as little as six weeks.
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That’s when most of the soft tissue breaks down due to moisture absorption via the surrounding soil. Full decomposition usually occurs within two years, although bones may remain for another two decades in moist soil.
Splitting the Difference Between Tradition and Innovation
Green burials come with clear advantages for the environment. But many people still require convincing about this type of interment.
Moreover, falling back on traditions can provide comfort for those facing loss. Fortunately, mushroom coffins offer a better way to say goodbye to loved ones while still adhering to more traditional final wishes.
Similar to an “Unpainted Egyptian Sarcophagus”
Bob Hendrikx, 29, of the Netherlands, invented the fungi tomb, and it remains his passion project. He researched how nature recycles as he worked to create a better means of green burial.
This led him to mushrooms. He explains, “I learned that they are the biggest recyclers on the planet. So, I thought, hey, why can we not be part of the cycle of life? And then decided to grow a mushroom-based coffin.”
Some have likened the coffin to an “unpainted Egyptian sarcophagus.” Its lines prove minimalistic and sleek. And it can even be draped with moss, providing a soft spot for a body during the funeral.
Mushrooming Green Burials
Loop Biotech manufactures the coffins, promoting them as a way to participate in the “circle of life.” In partnership with Natuurbegraven Nederland (Nature Burials Netherlands), Loop Biotech embeds mushroom-entombed remains in protected parks.
And this new green burial method appears to be mushrooming, especially across Northern Europe. Why? Because local populations are eco-conscious. They’re also familiar with the role of mushroom in natural ecosystems.
Buried in Mushrooms
Can Loop Biotech keep up with spiking interest in fungal burials? Currently, the company boasts the capacity to cultivate 500 coffins simultaneously. And they also make urns for individuals who prefer cremation.
Sustainable urns have a sapling sticking out. That way, when the urn breaks, the ashes inside nurture and feed the young tree. Besides making burial better for all involved, Hendrikx sees his invention as a game-changer regarding views about death. “It brings a new narrative in which we can be part of something bigger than ourselves.”
How much does it cost to go down in a mushroom? Right now, Loop Biotech ships solely across Europe. Urns cost a little over $200 and coffins in excess of $1,000. While some might balk at these costs, getting buried in a fungus sarcophagus remains far more affordable than serving a pound of black and white truffles at your next dinner party!
By Engrid Barnett, contributor for Ripleys.com