Returning to the earth when we die. It sounds like the most logical thing to happen to our bodies after death. But if we take a closer look at our current modern burial rituals, we soon discover there are many obstacles that stand in between a dead body and the earth.
Through embalming methods that keep the body needlessly in perfect shape, sealed caskets made out of non-biodegradable materials and other unnecessary added items that supposedly protect a corpse, natural decomposition is being heavily delayed.
Luckily for those of us who do wish to literally become one with the earth, there are many eco-friendly options. Here is a quick guide on how to gracefully transform into a tree.
Step 1: Die
Take your final breath. Let go. Surrender. It’s alright.
Step 2: Mix your remains with some soil and seeds
Allow your body to decompose as it naturally desires to. There are several ways to go about this:
Natural burial grounds
At a natural burial ground your body can enter the earth unembalmed, wrapped in eco-friendly shrouds or in a biodegradable casket. If you do a little research you will easily find a natural burial space near you. For example, in the Netherlands we have Hillig Meer, a beautiful old piece of nature where you can be buried in a forest with eternal grave rights, so you don’t have to worry about ever being dug up again and reburied.
In California there’s the Joshua Tree Memorial Park. Here you can forever become part of the desert through a green burial ritual.
The website also contains a list with statistics to remind us of the resources we exhaust by trying to prevent the natural process of decay, each year, in the Unites States alone:
- 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid, which includes formaldehyde
- 180,544,000 pounds of steel, in caskets
- 5,400,000 pounds of copper and bronze in caskets
- 30 million board feet of hardwoods in caskets
- 3,272,000,000 pounds of reinforced concrete vaults and 28,000,000 pounds of steel in vaults
If you care about the environment while you are alive, make sure that what happens to your body after you die reflects this.
Capsula Mundi is a project invented by Italian designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel. They designed an egg-shaped pod made of biodegradable material that can contain a corpse in fetal position. There are smaller pods available that con hold the ashes of a cremated person, and there are also pods available for pets. On top of the pod a small tree is planted, one that can be picked out by the deceased person while they are still alive. The idea is that as the pod dissolves into the earth and the body decomposes, it will release nutritions into the soil for the tree to grow from. The project is still in development, you can stay informed on their progress here.
The Bios Urn is similar to the idea of Capsula Muni, but only requires ashes. It is a biodegradable urn that mixes the cremated remains with soil from the burial site. A seed or seedling is placed on top and after it is placed within the ground, the urn will grow into a tree or bush.
Step 3: Grow
Once you are inside the earth and your body is disintegrating, invite all the insects to come and feast on you. They help your body break down easier and turn you into a complex ecosystem. This way, you can send all your newly released nutritions into the soil, and up into the roots of the tree that is growing out of you. Grow stronger every day. Reach with your branches up to the sun. Become the best tree you can be.
Step 4: Give back
When friends and family come to visit you on a warm sunny day, allow them to bask in your shade. Grow as many green leaves as you can in order to provide them with fresh oxygen. Perhaps even let them consume you, by growing fruits they can eat.
Congratulations, you have completed the natural burial cycle!
Photo credits: Levi van Veluw, Hillig Meer, Capsula Mundi