For those looking to live in the most sustainable way, there is now an afterlife too.
An intrepid Dutch inventor is now “growing” coffins by placing mycelium, the root structure of fungi, together with hemp fiber in a special mold which, within a week, transforms into what could basically be likened to the appearance of a sarcophagus unpainted egyptian.
And while traditional wooden coffins come from trees that can take decades to grow and years to break down into the ground, the mushroom versions biodegrade and deliver the remains to nature in as little as a month and a half.
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In our 21st century, when the individual spirit can increasingly thrive beyond the restrictions of yore, death and funerals are so often still surrounded by tradition that they can be far below the vision of the deceased or their loved ones.
“We all have different cultures and different ways of wanting to be buried in the world. But I think there are a lot of us, a huge percentage of us, who would like it differently. And it’s been the same old school the same way for 50 or 100 years,” said Shawn Harris, a US investor in the Loop Biotech company that makes the coffins.
With climate awareness and a special care for nature a focal point in more and more lives, Loop Biotech says it has the answer for those who want to experience the full circle of life – and then some – as close to what they always believed.
Bob Hendrikx, the 29-year-old founder decked out in an “I am compost” T-shirt in a recent presentation, said he’s done a lot of nature research “especially mushrooms. And I’ve learned that they’re the biggest recyclers on the planet. So I thought, hey, why can’t we be part of the cycle of life? And then I decided to grow a mushroom coffin.” Moss can be draped inside coffins for funeral ceremonies.
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And for those who prefer cremation, there’s also a grow urn that can be buried with a sapling sticking out. Then, when the urn is broken down, the ashes can help bring the tree to life.
“Instead of, ‘we die, we just end up in the ground,’ now there’s a new story: We can enrich life after death and you can continue to thrive as a new plant or tree,” Hendrikx said in an interview. “It brings a new narrative where we can be part of something bigger than ourselves.”
To put nature at the heart of such burials, Loop Biotech is collaborating with Natuurbegraven Nederland – Nature Burials Netherlands – which uses six special habitats where remains can be incorporated into protected parkland.
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Currently, Loop Biotech has the capacity to “grow” 500 coffins or urns per month and ships throughout Europe. Hendrikx said they caught on in the Nordic countries.
“It’s the Northern European countries where there is more awareness for the environment and also where there is autumn,” he said. “So they know and understand the fungus, how it works, how it’s part of the ecosystem.”