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Eco funerals: the tree of life or the tree of death

Photo by Flickr user silasvalverde
Photo by Flickr user silasvalverde

I would say that I am generally pretty conscious about being eco-friendly (I recycle cans and paper and all that sort of stuff), but I had never really thought about the environmental impact of funerals. I know it sounds morbid, but it turns out that traditional funerals are pretty environmentally taxing. However, there are alternatives called eco-funerals. Eco funerals don’t require concrete or marble vaults, embalming chemicals or traditional coffins.

The movement toward eco funerals continues to gain traction as environmental awareness becomes more popular, and the ideas are getting more and more creative.

One creative funeral concept comes from two Italian designers, Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel, who started Capsula Mundi. The idea behind their project is to replace graveyards with “sacred forests,” beginning with placing the corpse in an egg-shaped container made of bio starch plastic. A tree is then planted on top of the body, so that the corpse acts as a sort of fertilizer for the tree, hence the ‘sacred forest’ idea.

I think the concept of one form of life, human beings, living on in memory through another form of life, trees, is very beautiful and humbling. It provides an opportunity for the deceased’s loved ones to care for something that has a deep connection to the deceased after their passing.

Due to current Italian burial laws, these designs are only a dream for Capsula Mundi, but the company is working to change laws in order to make tree burials a reality. Many laws regarding funeral preparation and burials are being challenged with the increased shift towards eco-funerals.

Who knows — maybe some time in the not-so-distant future, sacred forests will replace cemeteries, as we make an effort to leave behind a smaller ecological footprint. In fact, some places in China have already begun embracing the practice by scattering the ashes of loved ones below or around trees.