The practice of burying our dead in the ground has been traced back over 100,000 years ago. For the vast majority of that history, those burials have been “green”. In fact, the practice of embalming, one of the most environmentally harmful aspects of modern American burial, didn’t begin until the Civil War – in an effort to preserve the bodies of soldiers killed far from home so they could be returned to their families intact.
Green burial is now making a comeback. In a recent AARP poll, 45% of respondents said they would choose green burial over modern burial or cremation if given the choice. If you’ve worried about the impact of human burials on the environment, you may want to consider the solution offered by two Italian designers; an all-natural burial pod that uses human remains as food for a tree.
Every day, we become more cognizant of the effect our conduct has on the environment. Most people have heard about progress in areas such as hybrid and alternate-power cars. Fewer people, however, are aware of alternatives relating to the burial of human remains.
Capsula Mundi is one such alternative to traditional burial in a coffin. The capsule, which is shaped like an egg, serves as a 100% biodegradable container for human remains. The body is placed in a fetal position inside the capsule, which is made of derivatives like potatoes and corn. A tree is planted immediately above the capsule, so the remains serve to nourish the growing tree.
Advocates of this idea point out it causes a new tree to be planted while saving others by preventing old growth trees from being cut down to make caskets. The newly planted tree can be monument to the deceased, families can tend to the growing tree, and loved ones can be buried close together, creating a family forest.
The benefits of the Capsula Mundi mirror the guidelines issued by the Green Burial Council in determining whether burials are “green”:
- No embalming or the use of only postmortem fluids that are nontoxic;
- Natural, plant-based casket materials that release no toxic byproducts when made or when placed in the ground; and
- No use of vaults, concrete, slabs, or liners in burial plots.
Unfortunately, before these capsules will be in widespread use in the United States, both laws and cemetery regulations must be changed. Many states prohibit the burial of human remains without a casket, and cemeteries often require vaults to prevent the ground from settling.
If you’re interested in a green burial, contact me and I’ll be glad to help you evaluate the possibilities for green burial in California – or even out of state – and get your wishes incorporate into your Final Disposition Instructions (an important document which should be part of your comprehensive estate plan).