There is a new concept going around about green burials and mushroom burial suits. This concept of Infinity Burial Suit or mushroom burial, introduced in the green burial industry as recently as 2016, is nothing short of revolutionary.
The idea behind a mushroom burial suit stems from the ideas proposed by Jae Rhim Lee, an MIT research fellow, an entrepreneur in the field of Mycoremediation, and an artist. Mycoremediation is a field in science that studies the phenomenon of metabolic decay with the assistance of fungi. Her research shows that some mushrooms can decay and decompose chemicals like pharmaceutical waste, heavy metals, and pesticides.
Lee founded the Infinity Burial project to locate a hybrid mushroom that decomposes dead bodies faster and turns the toxins accumulated in the body into nutrients that can enrich the soil in the process. Lee gathered various types of mushrooms known to clean up toxins from the environment during the development stage. She fed them with her hair, skin cells, and nails to it as food. She succeeded in developing the hybrid mushroom by selectively breeding the mushrooms that fed on them the most.
The Infinity mushroom suit is thus known for its fast decomposition, the rectification of toxins, and repurposing them to enrich the soil to help plants grow. This idea of a mushroom burial suit combines three of Lee’s passions: art, fashion, and science. In 2008, she first introduced the new concept of incorporating mushrooms in a burial suit at the Museum of Science in Boston. She discussed this novel idea in a Ted Talk speech delivered by her in 2011. The Coeio.com website then picked it up to make it commercially available for everyone in 2016.
Luke Perry, the Beverly Hills actor, had requested a burial mushroom suit upon his death, and his family granted his wish when he died of a massive stroke at the age of 52, on the 4th of March 2019. This information was provided on Instagram by Luke Perry’s daughter, who arranged for the green burial suit from Coeio.com to honor his request.
Why is Green Burial a Necessity?
Many people find the talk about death and decomposition of the body morbid, and for the grieving friends and family, dealing with the lifeless remains is all the more difficult. This attitude has led to burial, mummification, and cremation turning into a $20 billion industry. These funeral services make the dead look aesthetic, as if they are in a deep and peaceful sleep, to help reduce the emotional impact the loved ones of the deceased may have. However, this is helping the funeral service industry grow exponentially.
The human body develops numerous chemicals and toxins due to the consumption of various food items and the surrounding environment. The Centre for Disease Control reports that, upon burial, the 219 toxins accumulated in the body get mixed with the soil and groundwater. The toxic pollutants include pesticides, heavy metals, bisphenol A, dry cleaning chemicals, flame retardants, etc., that contaminate the soil and water.
It is a fact that humans affect the environment while living their daily lives. More and more people are coming to realize that human bodies can continue to negatively affect the planet upon death. This happens due to the standardized practices seen in funerals and the toxins released from bodies directly impacting the environment.
Generally, people in the US choose one of two types of funeral traditions:
These traditional modes of funerals can be expensive and have a lasting impact on the environment. Cremation involves burning the corpse, and embalming involves chemicals that undoubtedly contribute to the increase of carbon footprint in the environment.
Embalming involves using solvents like methanol and formaldehyde to inject into the body drained of blood to prevent quick decay. Around 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluids sell out each year, and out of that, 827,60 gallons are chemicals like benzene, methanol, and formaldehyde. Although embalming slows down the decomposition process, it does not stop it. Therefore, when the body finally decomposes, all the additional toxins leach out. These toxins eventually end up contaminating the soil because it seeps out through the casket.
Statistical reports about the natural resources show that burial caskets and vaults involve the use of 20 million board feet of mostly rainforest wood leading to deforestation. It also involves the use of steel and copper in enormous quantities (like 64,500 and 17,000 tonnes respectively), and other metals like iron, cobalt, lead, zinc, copper, and bronze.
Cremation also cannot be considered as a better alternative. It takes more than two hours of burning 28 gallons of fuel at 1,900 degrees to turn one body into ashes. Also, it releases toxins like mercury, soot, carbon monoxide, and dioxin nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere causing air pollution. These are some of the major compounds found in acid rain.
It is also interesting to note that the funeral industry market has shot up immensely through the years. The average cost of a casket funeral is between $8000 and $12000 today as opposed to 1960 when it just was $706. However, cremation, including the funeral, costs between $1000 and $5000. According to these statistics, 43% of Americans choose cremation over burial.
Green burial, however, has minimal impact on the environment as it leaves a significantly smaller footprint on Earth. It involves burying the body directly into the ground without using caskets, vaults, or embalming chemicals, making it eco-friendly. Hence, to preserve the environment and conserve natural resources, green burial is the option that many environmentally conscious Americans are opting for. There is an increase in the number of people choosing to bury themselves and other loved ones in a sustainable method.
Green burial is not only environmentally-friendly but also cost-saving. Consequently, reports by the National Funeral Directors Association show that over 53.8% of US citizens opt for green burials. It allows people to leave this world peacefully, with as little carbon footprint as possible, while also being cost-effective.
Apart from this, resomation or flameless cremation is another attempt at making funerals environmental-friendly. It quickly breaks the body down using alkaline hydrolysis. In the countryside, human re-composition or composting is used as an eco-friendly alternative to burial to resolve the space issue.
When it comes to remediating the toxins in the body, Infinity Burial Suit or green burial mushroom suit is the best option in the industry. You can avoid GHG emissions from cremation, hazardous chemicals from embalming, and caskets used in traditional burials using an eco-friendly mushroom suit. It is also an economical option as it costs significantly less than the average cost of cremation or funeral.
There is also a philosophical aspect of using mushroom burial suits because the process of planning allows a person to accept and welcome their death as a natural phenomenon. Mushroom burial helps the body integrate itself into nature in the most natural way possible without causing any harm to the surrounding environment. People often find it liberating, and it helps them make peace with the idea of passing away because they are free of the burden causing any harm in death.
Mushroom Burial Suit Explained
Infinity Burial Suit, or eco-friendly mushroom suit, is manufactured by a New York-based company Coeio and is designed to be worn by the deceased for a green burial. The suit is crafted in cotton by hand and has a bio-mixture of microorganisms and mushroom mycelium.
The suit’s fabric contains mushroom spores that decompose the body and neutralize the body toxins before mixing with the soil. They act as nutrients to plants making the whole process biodegradable. The suit also contains dissolvable nutrient-rich jelly and other elements for the growing mushrooms to feed on.
For people who favor direct burial over casket burial, it is more beneficial to bury the dead within 24 hours, unless the body is in the refrigerator for preservation. The mushrooms need to be closer to the surface to ensure germination. Hence, the depth of the grave should be 4 feet.
Once buried, the mushroom spores start growing from the green suit decomposing the body and removing the contaminants. These chemicals turn into enzymes, enrich the soil and help the plants grow, saving resources and energy. Hence, for people aiming to leave the world in an eco-friendly fashion, a mushroom burial suit is the right option.
The Infinity Burial Suit prevents the decomposed body toxins from polluting the soil, water supply, or plants and causes less air pollution, making it the most environmentally-friendly burial option available right now.
Working Process of a Mushroom Burial Suit
The mushrooms in the suit start breaking the body down with their enzymes after 24 hours from the time of the burial. Mushrooms are known to be self-seeking in their growth. Through biosorption, they neutralize toxins and chelate heavy metals that could potentially cause harm to plants. This process is called Mycoremediation.
The mushrooms deactivate the toxins by breaking their molecular bonds. The fungi make the toxins harmless by binding them with chelation in heavy metals. The process of using mushrooms to decompose and detoxify the organic material before releasing it to the soil is the same process applied during nuclear meltdowns and cleaning up oil spills.
Essentially, the mushroom burial suit devours the body and the toxins leaving behind a clean and pollution-free compost that enriches the soil. The familiar and edible shitake and oyster mushrooms, which also help clean the soil, carry out this process.
A Green Burial with a Mushroom Burial Suit
Due to the growing popularity of green burials, more and more cemeteries and graveyards allow this practice these days. People who want to combine green burial with traditional burial can easily fit the body with the mushroom suit inside a casket and bury it in a 4 feet deep plot. The bio-mix uses the nutrients in the wood to speed up the decomposition process.
Depending on human burial laws in different states, the burial can happen on private properties, but one should verify the practice’s legalities before deciding.
People who wish for a mushroom suit burial must inform their family members about it so that they can fulfill it when the time comes.
What is the Cost of a Mushroom Burial Suit?
Generally, a mushroom burial suit costs around $1,500. The Infinity Burial suits produced by Coeio also costs around that range. Small burial pouches costing $200 are also available for pets. Although not wholly inexpensive, it definitely costs much less than a conventional funeral that usually costs between $6,000 and $12,000.
How Does One Buy a Mushroom Burial Suit?
The Mushroom Burial suit is available on the Coeio website. It uses netted fabric covered in mushroom spores bio-mix, which Lee refers to as ‘ninja pajamas’. The Coeio website provides detailed instructions about the process of purchasing an Infinity Burial Suit. For deliveries in the US, delivery is made within two to three weeks and is free of cost.
It is essential to store the suit in a dark and cool location to prevent activating the bio-mix. The body must be dressed in the mushroom suit and buried in the ground within 24 hours to ensure that the mushrooms sprout appropriately.
Who is the Mushroom Burial Suit Right For?
Mushroom Burial Suit is the perfect choice for people who are eco-friendly and would like to leave a minimal amount of carbon footprint upon their death. With the current state of the environment, we must do everything in our power to help the environment recover from the effects of pollution. The increase in population and, consequently, deaths are causing an enormous number of people to be buried using the traditional method, which will have a negative impact on the environment. However, more people are now aware of the repercussions of conventional burials or cremations. There is an increased awareness among people about green burials, and people are opting for them over traditional burials and cremations.
A green funeral with a mushroom burial suit or an Infinity Burial Suit is a great alternative option for people concerned about the environment. Green burial practice can help reduce the carbon footprint significantly and help save money simultaneously.
It helps to have an open discussion with your family about choosing a green funeral and a mushroom burial suit. Some family members may favor the traditional funeral methods, but discussing your decision beforehand will help them understand the reasoning behind the choice. It will also help them accept the choice and carry out your wish when the time comes.
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