The funerary industry has made strides to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly, but this pales in comparison to some of the innovative practices, including tree pod burials, that are being developed by independent designers across the globe.
According to the Green Burial Council, burials in the United States use about nearly 5 million gallons of embalming fluid and tens of millions of feet of hard wood. Millions of tons of concrete and tens of thousands of tons of metals, inlcuding bronze each year. Cremation is more difficult to put into perspective, and while better for the environment, it is not without serious consequences. 1
This leaves the planet with an industry that has a very active role in the destruction of the natural world, but one that is struggling, or refusing, to find innovative solutions. That’s where small startup companies like Capsula Mundi, The Living Urn, Coeio, and many more come in.
These companies are offering solutions to the problems facing the funerary industry using organic burial pods. In fact, they intend to revolutionize how we bury and remember our dead.
Tree pod burial is just one of these solutions, but in 2023, it’s looking pretty promising. Through this unique burial technique, it will soon be possible to grow a tree from human remains. Where once there were barren, grey cemeteries housing the dead, now there can be forests memorializing our loved ones.
From the remains will grow a beautiful tree that can be enjoyed and cared for by your relatives and friends. 2
What Is Tree Pod Burial (Tree Burial Pod)?
Back in 2016, two Italian designers, Francesco D’Angelo and Adriano Del Ferro, unveiled their conceptual tree pod burial system now known as Capsula Mundi. 3
They devised a concept in which human remains, having been wrapped in natural fiber cloth, are stored within an eco-friendly, egg-shaped pod. This pod is then interred within the ground and a tree is planted directly above it. The body releases nutrients and microbes as it decays, and those feed the tree above it. In essence, a new organism is born from the decomposition of the corpse. 4
While this concept is still a work in progress, the designers have released a smaller version of the pod designed to hold the ashes of the deceased. Like its larger counterpart, after it is filled with human remains, it is buried, and a tree is planted above it. Given several months or years, the egg biodegrades, and the ashes are released into the soil. 5
Can You Have a Tree Burial with Organic Burial Pods?
As of yet, the larger version of Capsula Mundi is not on the market and there is no definitive release time. This is because the Capsula for the body still needs to be tested and certified by authoritative bodies.
Until they can do that, your only option is the Biodegradable Urn which is currently available on their website. 6
How Much Do Organic Burial Pods Cost (Tree Burial Capsule Cost)?
D’Angelo and Del Ferro are still not sure how much tree burial pods will cost, but they expect it will be cheaper than the average funeral which costs about $10,000 in the United States. However, until the finished product is unveiled, the price will remain a mystery.
The Biodegradable Urn, however, starts at $330.00. Currently, shipping is free.
How Do Egg Shape Burial Pods Work (Become a Tree When You Die)?
Theoretically, the process should be pretty simple, but the world will learn more as Capsula Mundi and other companies start releasing their products to the mass market. For now, however, this is the process:
- The body is placed in a fetal position within the pod. It is not embalmed or otherwise prepared for burial.
- The body is wrapped in natural fibers.
- Once the egg is shut, it is planted within the ground in a natural burial site.
- A tree is planted directly above it.
- As the egg begins to break down, the body is exposed to the earth and undergoes its own process of decay.
- Nutrients and microbes from the body then nourish the tree which will continue to grow well after the body has wholly disintegrated.
Where Are Tree Pod Burial Locations?
There are only a few so far, but countries like the US and the UK are establishing natural burial sites for human remains. In these areas, the body is placed within a biodegradable coffin and interred in the ground.
The primary requirement is that the body not be cremated or embalmed, though certain areas do allow for planting of biodegradable urns. However, the rules differ on a state by state and country by country basis, so it’s worth doing a little research before deciding what is right for you.
The same goes for burying biodegradable urns on private property. Certain states do not allow human remains of any kind to be interred on private land.
Can I Get a Tree Pod Burial: USA?
You can have your remains interred in a biodegradable urn and planted either on private property or in a natural burial site. However, it depends on the state. 7
There are different funerary laws for every state, so be sure to do your research before deciding which option is right for you.
Lasting Memorial: Using Bio Urns
Bio urns are built are similar to body pods but less sustainable and environmentally friendly. Like the pods, they transform human remains (in this case: ashes) into usable substances for the plants growing above them.
Most bio urns are composed of an urn made from biodegradable materials and a mixture of natural additives to support the tree above it in its infancy.
Over a series of months, the bio urn breaks down, allowing the ashes to mix with the dirt and become fertilizer for the tree. In less than two years, the urn will have wholly disintegrated, leaving only a healthy tree in its place.
While it’s easy to imagine a forest grown from these urns, it obfuscates the obvious problems with this funerary practice. For the urn to ever contain ash, the body must be cremated which is proving to be an unsustainable practice, though far superior to embalming the body and burying it in a casket.
Most cremation techniques require the burning of natural gas which leads to the release of greenhouse gases and the vaporization of harmful chemicals that may have been present in the cremated body before death. 8
As such, bio urns are imperfect creations, but if you are currently in the process of deciding how your body should be treated after death, they are one of the best options. You just need to be aware of the environmental consequences before deciding whether it’s for you. 9
Where Can I Find Tree Caskets?
Unfortunately, you can’t currently find tree caskets. However, there are other environmentally friendly options. We’ve already mentioned biodegradable urns, but did you know that there’s a Swedish company that can turn a corpse into compost or a burial suit with a built-in bio-mix of mushrooms and other microorganisms that more efficiently transfers nutrients to plant life and neutralizes toxins found in the body? 10
And that’s just two of the exciting eco-friendly alternatives to a casket funeral. In fact, there’s new products being designed, tested, and sold every day that can make your funeral a once in a lifetime experience. 11
For now, however, if you really want to be turned into a tree after you die, the only way to do so is through bio urns.
If interviews with D’Angelo and Del Ferro are to be believed, there will be more to learn about their Capsula Mundi tree pod burial process in the next couple of years.
Frequently Asked Questions about Tree Pod Burial
Many people have questions about this type of burial service. The following are some of the most common:
Is a Funeral Pod Service Nice?
It depends on what you want from a funeral service. For D’Angelo and Del Ferro, the tree pod burial concept is as much about rethinking death as it is about providing sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to a standard funeral.
They emphasize that tree pod burials will allow the family of the deceased to participate in and recognize the natural systems of transformation that occur when something dies. New life (the tree) is nurtured by the decay of old life (the body). And even after the body has wholly disintegrated, the family can visit and care for the tree. It becomes a memorial for the dead.
Where funerals, at least in the United States, are often characterized by the ending of a life, a funeral pod service is defined by both the ending of one life and the beginning of another. There is renewal – hope, even joy in seeing something new added to the world.
How Many Biodegradable Burial Pod Options Are There?
There are two main biodegradable burial pod options right now. There is, of course, the Capsula Mundi biodegradable urn which is, essentially, a proof of concept for the upcoming body pod, and there is also the BioUrn from the company, The Living Urn. 12
The BioUrn is a fascinating alternative to the Capsula Mundi, though both are rather similar in their usage. Much like its peer, the BioUrn is made from biodegradable materials that are all natural. In fact, even the packaging is biodegradable. The urn is shipped in bamboo.
Both the product and the packaging are also made without the use of glue, chemicals, or machinery to minimize its carbon footprint.
When you order a BioUrn, you also choose a tree. You have several choices: a Red or White Oak, Pink or White Dogwood, Weeping Willow, Japanese Flowering Cherry, Japanese Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Crape Myrtle, Sweetbay Magnolia, Sycamore, Tulip, Ginkgo Biloba, or American Elm Tree. Their website helps you decide which tree is best for you.
The tree is not shipped with the urn, but instead you receive a voucher which can be redeemed at any time during the year. That way, you can decide when to plant the tree above the urn, you don’t have to do it at the same time. However, they do recommend planting the tree within a week of the urn going into the ground.
Once you receive the urn, you place the cremated remains within it and close the lid which contains special additives. You can then decide when to plant the urn. It will not begin to break apart until it is in the ground.
Does Burial Under a Tree Help the Planet?
While we cannot speak to the benefits of the Capsula Mundi body pod as it is still undergoing rigorous testing, we can tell you that both the BioUrn and the Capsula Mundi Biodegradable Urn do help the plant but there are caveats.
The main issue with both of these products is that they still require the body to be cremated, the process of which creates carbon emissions. That being said, cremation is better for the environment than a traditional burial so you’re already minimizing certain impacts (including land usage) by deciding not to be interred in a coffin.
But the urns do have their own benefits. As we’ve laid out, these urns are specifically designed to transform ashes into a usable substance for plant growth and the urns themselves degrade entirely in a matter of months so that all that is left in the ground are ashes intermingled with the soil.
Plus, the body will support the growth cycle of a new tree which is always beneficial to the planet. 13
Is There a Way of Planting a Tree with Human Ashes?
Absolutely! The team behind the tree pod burial system is currently selling the Capsula Mundi Biodegradable Urn on their website. All you need to do is inter the ashes of the deceased within the egg-like urn and place it beneath a tree. As the urn degrades, it gradually releases the ashes into the soil.
You might know that ash has a very high pH level that can actually be harmful to the growth of plants. However, the team has designed the Biodegradable Urn with that problem in mind. The bioplastic slowly breaks down so that the ash is gradually mixed with the soil. The soil is able to neutralize the pH levels of the ash and rainwater dissolves the sodium and potassium salts which then benefit the plants.
In the end, the ashes are transformed into a sort-of fertilizer which supports the growth of the tree.
This is a great alternative to simply burying ashes in the ground or casting them into a body of water. However, this method doesn’t eliminate the carbon emissions associated with cremation techniques so it’s not without environmental consequences.
There’s more to be done before we can start transforming the human body into a tree, but we’re not far from that future. In fact, every day, innovative companies like Capsula Mundi are getting closer to an eco-friendly alternative to the wasteful, resource intensive funerals of the now.
But until those concepts can be turned into working products, we’ve still got options. The closest, of course, are the bio urns, but there are others on the market. These urns allow for a similar experience to tree pod burials, but still require that the body be cremated before it is placed within the urn.
Other products are also not without their environmental consequences, but that doesn’t mean the world isn’t making progress. In a few years’ time, you could be signing up to become a tree when you die – to have your body transformed into a single tree within a beautiful forest. In the meantime, you can also eliminate your environmental impact by using carbon offsetting tree planting programs to erase the emissions you generate in everyday life.
Simply reach out to one of the top carbon offset providers to get started. Tree pod burials will offer you that opportunity after you’ve lived a long and fruitful existence.
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