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Biodegradable burial concepts


Creative design is helping turn funerals eco-friendly, with these three modern concepts among the inspirational ways to be kind to nature when our bodies are returned to the earth.

Almost 54 per cent of Americans say they are interested in exploring green funeral options, according to the National Association of Funeral Directors. From locating a natural burial ground to carpooling and arranging for organic food at the funeral reception, there are many ways, it says, to arrange a funeral that’s nature-kind.

Traditional rites can be at the heart of a green burial, while these eco-friendly concepts could be a part of a contemporary celebration of life or beautiful modern funeral ritual.

MOURN by Nienke Hoogvliet


A new sustainable bioplastic made from wastewater has inspired this biodegradable urn design called MOURN by Nienke Hoogvliet. The urn is made from materials called PHAs (Polyhydroxyalkanoates), which are similar to regular plastic, but soluble, preventing soil and groundwater pollution. Small organisms in the soil can feed on PHAs, which makes the process of biodegradability similar to that of wood.

This urn was inspired as a way of reducing the environmental impact that can occur with cemeteries and ash scattering fields in the Netherlands.

“The human body contains a lot of nutrients and toxins, which the earth absorbs really quickly” Nienke says.

“Too many ashes are scattered on a small area of land, and the soil can’t process all these substances. The soils then become overfertilized having a negative impact on the local fauna and flora.”

“By combining this particular bioplastic with ashes, the toxins are released slowly and more gently, as opposed to having immediate effect.”

“Unlike a traditional urn where your loved one’s ashes remain in the urn, the ashes are absorbed by nature.”

Promessa by Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak

Swedish eco-burial pioneer Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak has developed an environmentally friendly form of cremation/burial which breaks down human remains into a fine powder with no release of toxins.

Promession is a relatively simple process which produces organic remains through freezing at ultra-low temperatures and vibration.

Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak

Promession is an innovative way to prepare a loved one’s body for a burial that mimics nature’s way of decomposition.

“The primary principles are preservation after death in organic form and shallow burial in living soil that quickly converts us to mulch” Susanne says.

“I am aware of the fact that this way of thinking is contrary to many customs. Yet we should try to adopt a more natural approach to our life and our death. Today’s burial traditions conceal reality from people and do not allow them to feel secure in the fact that death is essential to new life.”

Capsula Mundi by Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel

Inspired by nature, Capsula Mundi is a project which includes an egg-shaped, organic pods, made of biodegradable material, where your loved one can be placed for burial.

Ashes can be held in smaller egg-shaped urns for cremation, while bodies are laid down in a fetal position in larger pods. A tree is then planted on top of the egg, for families to commemorate their loved one and continue to care for the tree as it grows.

The idea is that these organic burial pods will be approved for use in natural burial grounds, to eventually create beautiful woodland memorial parks.

“A forest cemetery will not only reduce the environmental and landscape impact but will also give our planet more green space” the designers say.

“A place to bring kids for a stroll, for teaching them about trees, how to discern and look after them and respect nature.”

  • Read more: Cutting-edge technologies that could change the face of funerals in the future.
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