Italian designers Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli believe that death is as closely related to consumerism as life. And their goal is to create cemeteries full of trees rather than tombstones, reduce waste, and create new life out of death.
To achieve their goal, they have created Capsula Mundi – an egg-shaped pod through which a buried corpse or ashes can provide nutrients to a tree planted above it.
Once buried, they say, the biodegradable plastic shell breaks down and the remains provide nutrients to a sapling planted right above it.
The idea for the Capsula Mundi came in 2003, when Bretzel and Citelli saw tons of furniture trashed at the end of Milan’s famous design fair, “Salone del Mobile”.
“It was a big competition to design new things, but almost nobody cared about future impact or whether anyone would actually use these things”, Bretzel said.
“We started thinking about projects that could have an environmental aspect. Death is part of our life but at design fairs nobody cares about that because it’s one side of our life that we don’t want to look at. We don’t like to think of death as part of life,” he added.
The science behind it
The designers are launching the first version of their product, which is for ashes only. A later model will be suitable for bodies, to be encapsulated in the fetal position.
Bacteria in the soil first break down the bio-plastic, then the ashes gradually come into contact with the soil, without changing its chemical balance too dramatically.
While the burial of ashes may be environmentally friendly, cremation has its critics: “It’s a very energy-demanding process,” says Jennifer DeBruyen, an Associate Professor of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at the University of Tennessee..
On top of that, older dental fillings can release polluting mercury,which is why some crematoriums have installed mercury filters.
Although sowing a seed on top of the Capsula may sound like an attractive concept, Jacqueline Aitkenhead-Peterson, Associate Professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University, suggests more mature trees should be used.
The law behind it
“I think there’s enough science and agreement that these [options] represent a really viable option for afterlife,” adds DeBruyen.
As scientific research supports green solutions such as the Capsula Mundi, environmental awareness is also breaking down cultural barriers around burials.
This article originally appeared on CNN.