Burial Pods: Considering an Eco-Friendly Ending

Published May 13, 2021
Female gardener holding a sapling with soil

Within the past few years, global sentiments towards being environmentally conscious and eco-friendly have exploded, and burial pods are one method that an Italian business created in response to this growing need to care for the planet. Check out how this burial pod concept came into existence and the different ways that you can support the life on earth even in your death.

What Are Burial Pods?

Burial pods are an egg-shaped, eco-friendly, coffin-alternative that Italian designers Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli created. Named the Capsula Mundi, the two designers have envisioned not only the unique pods for full bodies that use the bodies decomposing nutrients to nourish a sapling/seedling, but plant-nourishing urns as well that take your cremated remains and mix it with the soil of a memorial plant. While their urns are currently for sale, their body-sized pods aren't, and there's no concrete estimate for when they might be brought into production. Jacqueline Aitkenhead-Peterson, Associate Professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at A&M University, describes the logistics behind this type of eco-friendly burial, "Because the body will purge within a year in a buried environment, the [body's] nutrients are released into the soil quite quickly, so a decently sized tree planted on top would be [the] key."

Capsulamundi Biodegradable Urn

Are Burial Pods Legal?

Considering that the human pocket versions of the burial pods are currently only an idea and don't exist in reality, there's been no action taken to address the legality of the burial method. As Italian law currently stands, the Caspula Mundi in that form wouldn't be legal within the country, but as burial regulations are specific to each country, it's difficult to say whether or not it would be legal anywhere around the world. However, the company's burial alternative that's currently on the market, which takes the same plant-enriching pod idea and incorporates a person's cremated remains into it, is considered perfectly legal in various countries around the world.

Other Concerns About Burial Pods

Many people, particularly those raised within the western culture, have major concerns over these unconventional burial methods. A majority of their concerns come from the strict traditions surrounding western burial practices and the culture's tendency to make the subject of death and dying taboo. By shrouding the end-of-life industry in mystery and prioritizing speed above all else in the wake of a loved one's passing, significant conversations about alternative burial methods are pushed to the fringes.

Yet, despite these cultural fears, there are some legitimate concerns over the burial pod. Dr. Aitkenhead-Peterson warns about the potential dangers that the materials from decomposing bodies can pose to groundwater systems. "Capturing these nutrients [before they can leech into the ground] is…important to protect groundwater," she reports. Thus, more testing does need to be completed to ensure that these eco-friendly burial options are truly safe for all life in any given habitat.

Burial Pods and the Eco-Friendly Burial Movement

The Capsula Mundi is just one of the methods that aspire to provide a natural alternative to the funeral industry's current options, and these methods belong to a growing movement of eco-friendly burial methods; these burials are designed to focus on sustainability and having little environmental impact. At the heart of this movement is both a respect for nature and the recognition that the contemporary burial industry doesn't have a sustainable way to take care of the dead. Land is a finite resource, and digging up old grave sites to make way for new ones is frowned upon because grave sites are considered sacrosanct in western culture.

Similarly, increasing costs of the funeral process over the last few decades have substantiated the moral and environmental claims made by eco-friendly burial proponents. Without the added fees of embalming, formaldehyde use, specialized coffins, burial plots, headstones, and so on, families can support the interment of their loved ones without having to fear going into bankruptcy over an unexpected loss. Thus, whether or not you agree with each type of natural burial option, they all do hint at a global need for funeral reform - a need which doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.

Life cycle of a biodegradable capsulamundi

Eco-Friendly Burial Options

The Capsula Mundi ashes-friendly burial system isn't the only type of environmentally conscious burial method out there. All the following options are legal, but the locations in which they're legal vary depending on the method. Check out some of the environmentally friendly methods currently in practice for burying the dead:

  • Capsula Mundi - The Capsula Mundi's biodegradable urn turns your ashes into a beautiful living plant for around $350.
  • Eternal Reefs - This company creates an artificial reef ball using a deceased person's ashes to help restore the diminishing coral reef system.
  • Celetis Memorial Spaceflights - This program sends your cremated remains into space.
  • Bios Urn - This company engineers biodegradable urns which cultivates a tree using a deceased person's ashes.
  • Aquamation - This business decomposes the body by soaking it in a water and sodium hydroxide solution, and the skeletal remains that survive are ground into a fine powder that's sent to the loved one's family.
  • Green Burial - This natural burial process involves bodies being buried in green burial cemeteries without embalming fluids, metal or cement coffins, and clothing of certain materials.
  • Body Farms - Featured in various true crime media, body farms around the United States take donated dead bodies and observe the way that they decompose in various different scenarios and conditions.
  • Sky Burials - A historic Tibetan custom, sky burials involve the bodies of the deceased being placed on the tops of mountains and being left to be devoured by the wildlife.

Give Back to the Earth One Last Time

Burial pods, and other eco-friendly burial options, are cost-affective and sustainable ways for you to continue giving back to both the planet that housed you and the family that loved you in life and in death. You don't have to be a radical environmentalist to appreciate the trajectory that the funeral industry may be heading in a few years. So, take some time to research your favorite alternative burial options and see if any of them speak to you.

Burial Pods: Considering an Eco-Friendly Ending