What if coffins, historically used as safety in opposition to permitting our our bodies to return to nature, as an alternative each welcomed and transitioned our stays again to the earth? To ensure, that’s a picture makeover with 1000’s of years of human historical past to beat, however there are efforts underway to reimagine our closing resting locations as alternatives for renewal as an alternative of finality.
Loop Biotech, based mostly out of the Netherlands, is one such firm aiming to develop choices for these in search of a extra eco-friendly exit technique. “It’s begging for innovation,” founder, biodesigner, and architect Bob Hendrikx advised Treehugger of the worldwide funeral trade.
His firm’s first product, the Loop Living Cocoon, is exclusive within the quickly increasing world of inexperienced burial not due to why it breaks down, however how. Instead of being constructed from widespread biodegradable supplies reminiscent of cotton, linen, willow, or bamboo, the Loop Cocoon is constructed from dwelling mushroom mycelium.
“I took a long time to arrive at such a concept,” Hendrikx defined, “as a result of it is actually a few new basic method of collaborating with dwelling organisms, as an alternative of working with lifeless supplies. We see nature as kind of this grocery store the place we wish to kill organisms after which collaborate with them. I used to be simply taking a look at nature and seeing, ‘Oh, but they actually collaborate when they are alive, so wonderful everyday objects are living organisms that can breed and are self-healing.’
“And I just stumbled upon a lot of organisms, one of which is mycelium, which is like the biggest recycler in nature. The product market fit was actually the simple part.”
Mycelium, the fast-growing roots of a fungus, is discovered in every single place in nature and is more and more believed by scientists to offer a form of “wood-wide web” within the soil that mutually advantages an estimated 90% of plant species. It’s alongside these huge mycelial networks that organisms, reminiscent of timber, talk and commerce sources.
“It’s this network, sort of like a below-ground pipeline, that connects one tree root system to another tree root system, so that nutrients and carbon and water can exchange between the trees,” forest ecologist Suzanne Simard advised Yale Environment 360 in 2016. “In a natural forest of British Columbia, paper birch and Douglas fir grow together in early successional forest communities. They compete with each other, but our work shows that they also cooperate with each other by sending nutrients and carbon back and forth through their mycorrhizal networks.”
As Hendrikx talked about, mycelium can be certainly one of Earth’s nice recyclers—absolutely able to breaking down all kinds of gear and decontaminating environments. These embody pollution reminiscent of heavy metals, textile dyes, prescribed drugs, private care merchandise, and pesticides and herbicides. In different phrases, it’s a wonderfully pure resolution for serving to to decompose human stays safely and no matter possessions we would resolve to take with us.
Closing the Loop
How is the so-called “living coffin” made? According to Hendrikx, his staff first harvests the mycelium from surrounding forests. “We did a lot of testing, he said. “I started this when I was back in grad school and I was like, ’OK, we have all these types of mushrooms, let’s see what works and what doesn’t work.’” The staff ultimately settled on the mycelium of the gray oyster mushroom, a typical edible selection discovered all through the world.
After harvest, the mycelium is inoculated on petri dishes and later embedded right into a substrate, reminiscent of sawdust or hemp. When prepared, the fungi are added to a dwelling cocoon mould full of wooden chips. In as little as six or seven days, the mycelium grows all through the wooden chips and populates the mould. After being naturally air-dried, the Cocoon is extracted and prepared on the market. According to Loop, the weaving motion of the mycelium is so dense that every Cocoon is able to supporting stays in extra of 400 kilos.
Once launched to groundwater, the mycelium reactivates, fully breaking down the Living Cocoon in as little as 30 to 45 days, and serving to to hurry decomposition and eradicate any toxins or pollution. In addition, a mattress of moss is included inside every Cocoon to help within the composting course of.
Whereas a physique in a conventional coffin can take one or twenty years to interrupt down, Loop estimates its product will absolutely decompose stays in solely two to a few years. Even higher, your final act received’t be on the additional expense of the planet. U.S. cemeteries alone annually eat 30 million board toes of hardwoods, 90,000 tons of metal, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid.
And in case you’re questioning, this isn’t a product that comes with an expiration date. As lengthy as you retain it saved in a dry location, your closing resting place can be prepared if you find yourself.
“We often compare it to a wooden table,” stated Hendrikx. “If you allow a picket desk indoors, nothing goes to occur. If you allow it outside, nonetheless…”
Eyes on the Future
Despite solely launching final 12 months, the Living Cocoon has already confirmed standard, with shipped orders to clients within the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. The firm has plans to supply one other 100 over the following three to 6 months, with vouchers accessible by way of their web site for anybody . To enhance manufacturing, they’re scaling up their Living Cocoon manufacturing facility from 10,000 sq. toes to over 32,000 sq. toes.
According to Hendrikx, the price of the coffin, which presently sits at round $1,600, is anticipated to fall as output will increase and the mycelium rising course of is additional refined. Different variations of the Cocoon, one thing akin he says to a extra “organic shape,” are additionally within the works.
“We’re going to build a shroud, an urn, and we’re also going to go into the animal market—which makes a lot of sense, because animals are allowed to be buried in your own backyard,” he added.
In three years’ time, Hendrikx says he expects Loop to have “multiple growing facilities in which we grow living products that enrich the soil.” At the identical time, he expects to proceed his analysis into exploring new organisms and in search of new collaborations with nature.
“We really want to take this thing and improve the funeral industry,” he stated. “Because it’s so unnecessary what we’re presently doing.”