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Biodegradable burial concepts

MOURN burial pod detail

Creative design is turning funerals eco-friendly, with these four modern concepts among the inspirational ways to be kind to nature when our bodies are returned to the earth.

An increasing numbers of Australian are exploring green funeral options, with many funeral directors offering eco-friendly options from wicker caskets and linen shrouds, to burial services in bushland cemeteries.

Conventional cemeteries in Australia, too, are beginning to offer green zones for natural burials, with people buried in these spaces interred at a shallower depth than an ordinary grave, allowing nature to take its course more swiftly.

Traditional rites can still be at the heart of a green burial, while these four eco-friendly concepts could be a part of a contemporary celebration of life or modern funeral ritual.

MOURN by Nienke Hoogvliet


A new sustainable bioplastic made from wastewater has inspired a biodegradable urn design called MOURN by Nienke Hoogvliet.

The urn is made from materials called PHAs (Polyhydroxyalkanoates), which are similar to regular plastic, but soluable, preventing soil and groundwater pollution. Small organisms in the soil can feed on PHAs, which makes the process of biodegradability similar to that of wood.

This urn was inspired as a way of reducing the environmental impact that can occur with cemeteries and ash scattering fields in the Netherlands.

“The human body contains a lot of nutrients and toxins, which the earth absorbs really quickly” Nienke says.

“Too many ashes are scattered on a small area of land, and the soil can’t process all these substances. The soils then become overfertilized having a negative impact on the local fauna and flora.”

“By combining this particular bioplastic with ashes, the toxins are released slowly and more gently, as opposed to having immediate effect.”

“Unlike a traditional urn where your loved one’s ashes remain in the urn, the ashes are absorbed by nature.”

MOURN provides an ideal way to give your loved one back to nature in a responsible way.

Promessa by Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak

Swedish eco-burial pioneer Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak has developed an environmentally form of cremation/burial which breaks down human remains into a fine powder with no release of toxins.

Promession is a relatively simple process which produces organic remains through freezing at ultra-low temperatures and vibration.

Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak

Promession is an innovative way to prepare someone’s body for a burial that mimics nature’s way of decomposition.

“The primary principles are preservation after death in organic form and shallow burial in living soil that quickly converts us to mulch” Susanne says.

“I am aware of the fact that this way of thinking is contrary to many customs. Yet we should try to adopt a more natural approach to our life and our death. Today’s burial traditions conceal reality from people and do not allow them to feel secure in the fact that death is essential to new life” Susanne says.

Capsula Mundi by Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel

Capsula Mundi

Inspired by nature, Capsula Mundi is a project which includes an egg-shaped, organic burial pod, made of biodegradable material, where your loved one can be placed for burial. Ashes can be held in smaller egg-shaped urns for cremation, while bodies are laid down in a fetal position in larger pods. A tree is then planted on top of the egg, for families to commemorate their loved one and continue to care for the tree as it grows.

The idea is that these organic burial pods will be approved for use in natural burial grounds, to eventually create beautiful woodland memorial parks.

“A forest cemetery will not only reduce the environmental and landscape impact but will also give our planet more green space” the designers say.

“A place to bring kids for a stroll, for teaching them about trees, how to discern and look after them and respect nature.”

Australia’s upright burial ground

upright burial

At Kurweeton Road Cemetery in Victoria, the dead are shrouded in biodegradable hessian and stood to rest in vertical graves.

Their bodies are not embalmed but frozen, before being committed to the earth. A battery-operated catafalque, charged by solar panels gently lowers the person who has died into their upright grave, which takes up less than a third of the space of a conventional burial plot.

On nearby Mount Elephant, sapling eucalyptus, casuarinas, calistamons, acacias and bursaria are planted in memory following every Upright Burial.

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