Caskets, Baskets, and Shrouds, Oh My!

It’s hard enough to figure out what to wear today, but with the shift to bring a better quality end-of-life journey, and with more and more people wanting an eco-friendlier burial, we now have many creative, imaginative options to lay a body to final rest. Here are a few recent ideas. Some good, some interesting, some…well, you decide…

Shrouds

Did you know you can be cremated or buried in a cemetery in a simple death shroud without a coffin? You can now buy a handmade designer burial shroud. You pick the color, pattern, and fabric. The cost starts at about $300, or pennies on the dollar compared to standard coffins. Shrouds can come with sewn-in handles and a board to support the body as its being carried. They are more environmentally friendly and can be used in “green” burial grounds. Kinkaraco, in the San Francisco Bay area, makes some beautiful shrouds. Check them out at kinkaraco.com.

Baby tree urn

A new product on the market pairs cremated remains in a biodegradable box that has a baby tree embedded into the container. The idea is that the ashes will nourish the tree as it grows, creating a living memorial. Our cremated remains are almost completely raw carbon and have high pH and sodium levels which would be unsuitable for plant growth. (The parts that made us good compost are destroyed in the cremation process.) The Living Urn company claims it has solved this by adding an “ash neutralizing agent” that is added on top of the ashes along with a “premium growth mix” that dilutes the surrounding environment from these effects. The company has pet urns too. You can learn more at thelivingurn.com

Capsula Mundi

This is an incredibly beautiful idea created by industrial design engineers out of Italy for green burials. The concept is to put the dead body in a giant egg-shaped pod made of biodegradable starch plastic, with a tree planted on top of it—burying them to create memory forests instead of tombstone-filled cemeteries. But there are big obstacles to moving this idea from concept to reality, among them laws in many states and countries that currently do not allow this type of burial.  Learn more at capsulamundi.it/en/

Dressed to flower

The Mycelium Suit designed by Jae Rhim is an eco-friendly, handcrafted jumpsuit worn by the deceased. According to the company website, the suit “has a built in biomix, made of mushrooms and other microorganisms that together do three things: aid in decomposition, work to neutralize toxins found in the body and transfer nutrients to plant life.” For more information, go to coeio.com

Basket case

Wicker baskets made of bamboo, willow, sea grass, or other plants are now being made to replace standard coffins. You can also get a wicker tray for the body to be used in cremation.

Style is everything. Why shouldn’t your style in death match your style of living? Now that you have more options for this final party suit, get curious and remember: Beauty has no limits, not even in death.

Ashley T Benem is the founder of the non-profit A Sacred Passing: Death Midwifery Service and the creator of the Art of Death Conference. She is an advocate for palliative and end-of-life care issues, empowering and supporting families to reclaim their right to die in congruence with their lives. Contact Ashley at asacredpassing@gmail.com.

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