Many of the most common methods of body disposal aren't particularly sustainable. Cemeteries fill up easily, the embalming process fills the body with toxins that later return to the earth after decomposition, and cremation spews a lot of soot, carbon monoxide, and trace metals like mercury into the air, and each cremation requires 28 gallons of fuel and releases of 540 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. Taken as a whole, this is not an insignificant amount. The Funeral Consumers Alliance estimates that 246,240 tons of carbon dioxide are released each year due to cremation, or the equivalent of about 41,040 cars.
All of these options are both very expensive and damaging to the environment, so people have been working on alternative methods of burial, including burials at sea, cremating remains into biodegradable mulch that can be used to grow a tree, and "natural" burials directly into the earth.
Now there's a new option: the Infinity Burial Suit. A new method of burial that was inspired by the humble mushroom, the Infinity Burial Suit is the creation of designers Jae Rhim Lee and Mike Ma. A new body is put inside the suit where it “cleanses the body of toxins before returning it to nature” by leaching the body of the hundreds of toxic pollutants in our bodies, including pesticides, preservatives, and heavy metals like mercury and lead. If untreated, these chemicals would drain into the ground water.
To remove the chemicals, designer Jae Rhim Lee studied muhroom — which are known to clean up toxic environments. She tested various strains of mushrooms by feeding them her own hair, skin, and nails, and selectively breeding the ones that best consumed them.
Once she had a strain that would work for her purposes, she then made a body suit that threaded the mushroom spores all through the fabric. After death, the mushrooms grow and consume both the body and the toxins within it. At the end of the process, the earth is left with clean, nutrient-rich soil.
The biggest issue facing the success of the Infinity Burial Suit is people's squeamishness about death. “We want to eat, not be eaten by, our food,” she said in a 2011 TED Talk. “But as I watch the mushrooms grow and digest my body, I imagine the Infinity Mushroom as a symbol of a new way of thinking about death and the relationship between my body and the environment.”
The first user was Its first user was Dennis White, a 63-year-old suffering from primary progressive aphasia, a rare neurological disease.
“I never thought about death until I was diagnosed, and I want to go out with a bang, like I’ve lived most of my life.” White said in a documentary. “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”