Europe

Dying to be green: Are mushroom coffins the secret to an eco-friendly death?



Dutch inventor Bob Hendrikx is harnessing the energy of fungi by utilizing mycelium — huge webs of fungal threads that usually stay underground — as an different to conventional picket coffins. His environmentally pleasant “living coffin,” he says, isn’t solely carbon unfavorable to develop, however decomposes in six weeks, slightly than the 20 years it could possibly take for a daily picket coffin. The coffin additionally will get to work decomposing the physique, dashing up the course of by which nature can take up the vitamins of the deceased.

Hendrikx’s firm Loop isn’t the first to hitch itself to the eco-hearse. Cremated human stays can be positioned in pods to develop timber or solid into synthetic coral reefs, whereas coffins produced from wicker, macramé and cardboard are all on the market. Woodland burials, the place coffins and clothes are produced from all-natural supplies, are additionally experiencing a resurgence. And when actor Luke Perry died in 2019 he was buried in a “mushroom suit” designed to assist decompose his physique. But utilizing mycelium to enclose the physique in a “living coffin” is a novel strategy.

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The motivation is easy: some funeral practices are dangerous for the surroundings. In the US alone over 4 million gallons of embalming fluid are used yearly for burials, in accordance to the non-profit Green Burial Council. Embalming fluid accommodates poisonous elements resembling formaldehyde, which may leach into the floor.

Cremation has its personal points, releasing appreciable quantities of carbon into the environment and presumably heavy metals if current in the physique (the US Environmental Protection Agency calculated that almost 2 tons of mercury, present in dental fillings, had been emitted by human cremations in 2014).

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“What really frustrates me is that when I die, I’m polluting the Earth. I’m waste,” says Hendrikx. He describes the physique as a “walking trash bin of 219 chemicals” even earlier than factoring in the metals, wooden and glue sometimes utilized in coffins.

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“Our current burial processes lead to material depletion, soil pollution and CO2 emissions,” he provides. “We created a super-industrial process for one of the most natural processes on Earth.”

But given the proper therapy, the physique turns into “a beautiful bag of compost.” Mushrooms, Hendrikx says, “are known as the world’s largest recycler,” turning lifeless natural matter into new vegetation. “Why are we not using this?”

The "Living Cocoon" designed by Bob Hendrikx's company Loop.

Loop’s “Living Cocoon” is comprised of lab-cultivated mycelium, woodchips and secret elements, positioned in a mould and grown right into a coffin {shape} over the course of every week. Once accomplished, moss — stuffed with microorganisms — is packed into the backside, onto which the physique is laid. Once the construction is available in contact with damp soil the mycelium comes to life and the course of begins.

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Loop has partnered with biomaterials pioneers Ecovative to take a look at the product, which Hendrikx says will decompose in 45 days. “It’s not gone,” he provides, “because it’s then working on your body.” He says calculations made by Loop with knowledgeable enter point out a corpse will totally decompose in two to three years.
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The coffin, which is manufactured in Delft, is on sale for €1,495 ($1,700). Joerg Vieweg, an proprietor of funeral properties in Germany, is considered one of Hendrikx’s prospects. Vieweg says the mycelium coffin is “a good example of how to achieve something ecologically with little change in the tradition of farewell.”

“(It) does not fundamentally change the process and traditions (of preparing a body for burial),” he provides, which makes burial in a mycelium coffin more socially acceptable.

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To date round 100 burials have been performed with the Living Cocoon in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, says Hendrikx. He says legal guidelines in some European nations are more favorable for the coffin than others. “It’s a super-conservative market,” he provides, “the same as it’s ever been.”

“I think we are less traditional (in the Netherlands),” argues Heidi van Haastert, department director of the BGNU, the nation’s affiliation for funeral corporations.

“The challenge at this moment is how can we convince families to organize a sustainable funeral?” she provides. “Consumers are not aware of (sustainable funeral options), because the problem is, how many times do you organize a funeral? There’s only once or twice in your life that you’re responsible.”

The coffin has already been used for funerals in multiple European countries.

Van Haastert says funeral corporations in the Netherlands at the moment are coaching their staff to focus on climate-neutral choices with bereaved households, and he or she hopes new legislative tips will be launched for different funerals.

While she describes Loop’s product as “niche” at current, she speculates that “within five years (people) will ask more for these kinds of coffins.”

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Hendrikx believes he is discovered a optimistic resolution, and as Loop appears to increase, it goals to create coffins utilizing fungi samples native to their last vacation spot to guarantee they’ve optimum environmental impression. “Instead of doing a bad thing, or less bad thing (after death), you can actually do something good,” he says, making the case for his invention.

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Vieweg believes the funeral business is “facing a tremendous change of paradigm.”

“People are creative and look(ing) for sustainable solutions to protect our environment,” she says. “The rituals that have been lived up to now will also survive and new ones will develop. To experience this process is exciting and challenging.”


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