Mushroom Burial Attire Speeds a Body’s Return to Earth

By: | September 22nd, 2016


Matter never goes away, it just transforms. It’s the job of fungi to decompose matter so that it can become something new. For those of us who care deeply about ecology, this is serious. Now this Infinity Burial Suit made of mushroom mycelium adds one more option for a green departure.

There is a growing trend in finding ways to reduce the toll our death takes on the planet as well as our wallets. A typical burial can use a lot of resources to get a body in the ground. There’s the environmentally detrimental embalming fluids to keep us from breaking down, the casket often made of metals instead of wood, and sometimes even a concrete vault, which I suppose is to keep grave robbers out. Even cremation uses a tremendous amount of energy. And, the cost can easily run into the tens of thousands even without the hearse, the wake, and celebration of life receptions.

I’ve written here on Industry Tap already about the beautiful casket basket option. It allows for free flow of fluids while being porous enough to allow worms and munchers to clean the bones. Wood takes time to break down so as to allow for the decomposing “assistants” to enter from the ground, so some like to drill holes in the bottom.

James Duncan Davidson/TED

James Duncan Davidson/TED

This new Infinity Burial Suit option actually speeds the process along at a cost of about $1,500; comparable to the basic casket baskets. What happens is that the suit is embroidered with mycelium-laden thread that serves to detoxify the body as it is consumed and the mycelium grow. The mushroom compost is then readily available to nourish the soil. Thus, the cycle of life is complete.

The suit was first presented at a TED talk in 2011 by the co-founder of New York-based Coeio, Jae Rhim Lee, but the suit is only now becoming available. An order can be filled within 2-4 weeks, but the company will make attempts to accommodate emergency needs. You can buy the suit in advance and just send it in every five years or so for a fresh inoculation of the mycelium and organisms concoction.

There are other burial products available from Coeio as well, like the burial shroud and the casket liner. They are made with 100% organic cotton fabric and untreated wooden buttons. A body can be buried with or without an additional decomposable casket. And, there are products for pets, too. A shroud can range from $50 for a tiny fish or hamster size to $275 for a Great Dane. There is a bed with drawstring sides to enclose the animal for $200 for cats and $325 for medium to large dogs.

Some have questioned the ability of fungi to flourish so deep underground. But, Coeio assures that, even though a body is placed 4 feet under, the decomposition will nourish the mycorrhizal fungi at the roots of trees.

In the last year, I’ve lost a couple of friends who chose a green burial in a conservation trust cemetery. It was a lovely, serene setting. The idea is to make the ecological values you live by be the values you take to the grave. In nature’s way, everything becomes food for something else. It’s a perfect plan.

Carol Mosley

Carol Mosley is a social ecologist, freelance writer, human rights activist, mini-farmer, and educator.

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