Most people opt to be buried in a traditional casket or placed in a mausoleum after they die. However, grave sites take up a lot of physical space. As more people live and die, we’ll eventually run out of cemeteries to bury dead people in due to the sheer volume of the deceased and the finite amount of space on earth. For this reason, some people are coming up with newer ideas that challenge our more traditional burial options.
Organic Burial Pods
In Italy, Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel created the Capsula Mundi project, which develops biodegradable pods for humans to be buried in that also provide nutrition for a living tree. Instead of visiting an eerie tombstone-lined cemetery that reminds loved ones of your death, they’ll see life and rebirth as the tree grows and thrives. Citelli and Bretzel are currently accepting financial donations to bring their idea of organic burial pods to life on their website.
Mushroom Death Suit
When humans are buried, their bodies decompose and pollute the environment around them. When humans are cremated, these toxins enter the air. These may include environmental toxins commonly found in our bodies from the foods we eat, such as BPA, and embalming chemicals, such as formaldehyde. Jae Rhim Lee’s 2011 TED Talk highlights her idea of a mushroom suit, which she calls the Infinity Burial Suit. She argues that it can transform current funerary practices by burying people in mushroom suits that purify the toxins and help the environment.
Burial at Sea
For centuries, humans were buried at sea. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still allows for burials at sea, as long as the human remains are prepared accordingly. In most locations in the United States, non-cremated remains must be deposited no closer than three nautical miles from any point of land and in more than 600 feet of water, so long as measures are taken to ensure the body sinks to the bottom of the sea quickly and permanently. Cremated remains do not have the same kind of depth limitations and can be disposed of anywhere, as long as you are far enough away from land.
Scattered at a Theme Park
For most people, theme parks, such as the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, provide families with a tremendous amount of joy. Some people, against the company’s wishes, take it upon themselves to leave cremated remains there. Theme park guests sneak cremated remains of their loved ones into the park for one last family vacation together.
Two common places to scatter cremated ashes inside of Disney theme parks include the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride, where “dead men tell no tales,” and the “Haunted Mansion” attraction, where there are “999 happy haunts, but there’s always room for one more.” The rides have required professional level cleanup after reported incidents and it’s possible those responsible face legal repercussions. After all, this practice, unlike the other practices on this list, is not legal.
Over the next few decades, humans will have to confront current expectations about funeral practices to keep up with what we know about the environment and space constraints. This may change how funerals look and how we understand death.
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