From its inception, the modern green burial movement has largely defined itself around the idea of a simple, natural return. In the last half decade, however, a new—and younger—generation of entrepreneurs has emerged that is introducing products and processes that look to assist Mother Nature in her work.
The Infinity Burial Suit ($1,500) gets the most looks of them all. First introduced in a 2011 TED Talk that’s been viewed more than 1.3 million times, the black, pajama-like shroud (jacket, hood, face mask, slippers, and mittens) is studded with mushrooms to “aid in [a body’s] decomposition, work to neutralize toxins found in the body and transfer nutrients to plant life,” according to the manufacturer.
The Capsula Mundi dispenses with the shroud altogether, enclosing a naked body in the fetal position within an egg-shaped coffin. Conceived—but not yet produced—by a pair of Italian artists, the womb-like pod is then buried “in the earth like a seed” to feed a tree that’s planted above it.
In function if not form, the Capsula is like a full-body version of the Bios Urn ($145). This biodegradable cylinder holds one’s cremated remains at the base. In the top sits a layer of organic matter from which the seed of a selected tree species—maple, pine, ginkgo, beech, or ash—eventually spouts.
And then there’s Katrina Spade’s Urban Death Project. Because half the world’s population lives in cities, most of which aren’t within easy reach of natural cemeteries, Spade envisions creating compostoriums in the urban cores, where remains would break down naturally into organic matter that’s later returned to the family garden, city parks, or the site’s own grounds.
Whether such ventures will—or should—come to fruition remains a matter of great debate within the movement. Burial ground proprietor Billy Campbell dismissed them in a recent blog post as “thoughtful but ultimately useless . . . innovations.” But there’s no denying they’ve found a huge audience on social media and are helping bring converts to green burial.
“Some of these products may be silly and unnecessary,” agrees Joe Sehee, founder of the Green Burial Council. “But they’re also opening up conversations and hearts and minds. And that’s a good thing.”