This not only lets you visit your loved ones and watch them grow, even after their death, it also reduces their carbon footprint.
Coffins are a major part of funeral services. People after their death are placed into these wooden boxes and lowered into the ground in traditional burial methods. As sad as the loss of a loved one is to friends and family, the traditional method of burial creates litter, even in death which means you could leave your carbon footprints behind. "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," says Jennifer DeBruyen, an Associate Professor of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at the University of Tennessee, according to CNN. Right now, the capsules exist for ashes only, but soon enough it could be made to fit fetus-like bodies in it.
However, a company called Capsula Mundi is experimenting with a unique burial method that effectively turns the deceased into a tree. Italian designers Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli seem to have a solution to it and they have come up with a burial pod that turns a dead body into a tree. Basically, these egg-shaped pods will act as a seed and they will be placed underground with a tree atop it.
Once buried, the biodegradable plastic shell breaks down and the remains provide nutrients to a sapling planted right above it. This happens because the shell is made from a starch plastic. Soon, the body inside will also start to decay and transform into nutrients, which will, in turn, be absorbed by the tree roots just above. The idea behind this is that loved ones will live on in the form of a tree, and family can visit and water the tree, helping it grow than to visit a grave and leave flowers that will cause it to wilt and die, too.
The idea for the Capsula Mundi came in 2003 when the pair saw tons of furniture being thrown away at the end of Milan's famous design fair, "Salone del Mobile." "It was a big competition to design new things, but almost nobody cared about future impact or whether anyone would actually use these things", Bretzel said. "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."
But would it really benefit the environment? DeBruyen seems to think so: "The problem with traditional burials is that they're completely anaerobic. The remains are buried deep and sealed in a coffin. There's a lot of incomplete degradation. These pods may help maintain some oxygen flow into the system. The other thing they bring to the whole system is carbon [from the starch-based bioplastic]. One of the constraints and challenges with decomposing a human body is that it's very nitrogen-rich. And so, the microbes that are trying to break down all that nitrogen need some carbon to balance it out."
"I think there's enough science and agreement that these [options] represent a really viable option for afterlife", adds DeBruyen. There's a lot of scientific research to back this method, and awareness about the environment is also breaking cultural barriers of burial. "We've noticed an uptick in the public interest in green burials in the last 24 months. Although our providers continued to grow steadily, the public has become much more aware and there is a lot more interest in the practice", says Kate Kalanick, from the Green Burial Council, North America's eco-certification organization for the death industry.
Though this type of burial is not legal yet in certain parts of the world, the US has embraced it. "It's legal in the whole of North America. We really don't have any governmental or legislative push back in the US or in Canada in regards to green burials," says Kalanick. Elsewhere, it still needs to be accepted: "In Italy, for example, this type of burial would not be allowed," says Bretzel. "We're collecting signatures for a petition to make it legal. But I know that it will be a long way before we can change the rules."