Inside the Collection

Death in the Museum- part one- green burials

LifeArt Coffin
Photo courtesy of LifeArt

I am in the middle of acquiring a coffin, and not just any coffin, one that is environmentally friendly.

This LifeArt coffin is not only spectacular looking, it is also made from almost 100% recycled materials, and will break down easily once in the ground. It has just been on display in the Museum as part of the Sydney Design 09 festival.

The act of burying the dead dates back to the very first Homo-sapiens who dug out shallow graves. Since then different cultures and religions have evolved to perform a variety of rituals and burial practices such as cremation, sky burials, mummification, burial at sea, or even cryonics!. But one of the most popular in western culture today is to bury a body inside a coffin, or casket, in a cemetery

Coffins have traditionally been made to protect the body, and thus been made out of strong materials such as steel and hardwood. These coffins not only take up a large amount of ground space (something most countries are running short of) they use a large amount of non-recycled material and can contain environmentally harmful chemicals that can leach into the ground.

Since I’ve been researching coffins I have been exposed to a few new ‘green’ ways to be buried:

Image courtesy of Promessa

The Swedish have come up with something called Promession, which is a way to freeze dry human remains. The body is submerged in liquid nitrogen, then slighty vibrated, the end result is a fine powder. promession-steg2promession-steg3
The powder can then be used to help plant a tree, placed in an environmentally friendly casket, or buried directly into the soil.

A Queensland council has taken the idea of natural burials one step further. You can now be buried in a cardboard coffin (or without a coffin at all) in bushland, and the position geo-tagged, so family and friends could return to the site. Information such as family pictures, biographies, and even letters can be attached to the GPS marker and retrieved with a handheld GPS system.

While it’s not for everyone, cardboard coffins are a good way to be ‘green in death’ as well as in life!

I want to be returned to the earth as naturally as possible after I die, being buried in bushland doesnt sound like a bad idea!

I want to know what you would like to happen to you after you die? Does your religion or culture dictate what will happen to your body? would you make an effort to ‘go green’?

19 responses to “Death in the Museum- part one- green burials

  • Did you know Muhammad al Fayed (owner of Harrods) has plans to be mummified and it’s rumoured that above his shop he has kitted it out with a gold sarcophagus, wall painting scenes of the afterlife and hieroglyphic texts recording the passage to the hereafter!? He often jokes that his customers will come by and visit him, leaving funerary offerings! I think there’s something quite appealing in this, although I think I would rather be buried in imitiation of the mummification process. I much prefer the idea of having all my organs intact!

    • Melanie- I find it really interesting that people choose to do such elaborate things after their death! I like that you prefer the idea of having your organs in tact…but why do you care? what is it in us that cares so deeply about what happens to our body after we die! Is it all based in religion?

      Ali- That is a good point, but if the future of burials is to record data on GPS locations then surely we end up with more information for future generations?

  • I think this is a fascinating topic. I’ve seen these green coffins before and they seem like an infinitely more sensible way to get buried than some of those behemoth oak and iron numbers. And I’m assuming cheaper?? I love the idea of having yourself turned into a fine powder to help nourish a tree – what a great idea!

    In terms of what you decide to do with yourself after death, I imagine its often what those around you want. I mean, you’re not there to complain are you?

  • Wendy – excellent point. It also depends on how much money people have to fund someone’s funeral/burial and whether or not the deceased talked about what they wanted before they passed away.

    Erika – Good question. I want my organs intact because I like the idea of completeness. Just like I don’t like the idea of having my ashes scattered all about the place. If I was to be cremated, I’d like to be kept safely inside an urn and cherished by my nearest and dearest. But, this too is problematic. It isn’t just my ashes, but also those of the coffin I was interred in! Hmmm…not so complete, is it?!

  • It is easy – use any of my organs for anyone else that will be useful. Cremate the rest, and spread the ashes at a bushland site I have chosen. Then go away and have a few good reds in memory of me.

    • Melanie along the same lines I dont want to be scattered at sea, I have no logically reason why, I am just scared of deep water.

      Linda, I am all for organ donation, and when I go I have taken steps to ensure they take what is usable!

  • What a fascinating post! I have never been too keen on being stuffed in a box to rot, and I don’t trust cremation!

    I love both the ideas you have written about… which to choose?!

    Being mummified is alluring in that the mummified corpses I have seen are quite beautiful. Not so keen on the old brain through the nose trick however.

  • Cremated, and then tiny portions of my ashes baked into cookies/cakes/etc for people who care enough to eat at the wake :-p

    Provided we really are what we eat, then everyone can be a bit like me.

  • Paul what are you thinking!!
    I want my bits and pieces used for the good of others but don’t use my remains for anatomical dissection practice. Put the rest of me in a carboard box collaged with photos of me doing adventurous things (if you can find any). Then cremate, bury the ashes somewhere with a beautiful outlook and plant a red frangipani on top of it.
    PS straighten me out when I die because if the body is left curled up it is very hard to put into a bag or coffin………reminds me of a story………..

  • I like to think that, in addition to useful bits and ashes, part of me will become a cloud. Or go with Derek and feed the animals – just let them be fish and nourish the ocean. Preferably neat eaters rather than flesh-shredding sharks – best not to think about that aspect. Just don’t moulder in a coffin, generating methane.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *