Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel are a pair of Italian designers who want to change the way we think of death. In 2003, they presented the idea of an earth-friendly innovation called The Capsula Mundi. Their invention is a biodegradable burial pod that transforms a loved one’s remains into beautiful greenery by fertilizing the surrounding soil.
The designers believe that “Death is often dealt with as a taboo, even though it has a very high environmental impact.” They aim to change that thought process – “After dying, we’ll still be part of the life cycle, and we should leave behind a positive legacy for our loved ones and the future of the Earth.” Citelli and Bretzel said. The pod is made from a fully biodegradable biopolymer that will disintegrate with time and mineralize, thus nourishing the soil that it is buried in.
Traditional burials negatively impact the environment by generating carbon dioxide. Additionally, the chemicals used in the various processes, such as embalming, are toxic. Traditional casket-burials also take up a large amount of space and consume many valuable resources that can never be used again.
The Capsula Mundi is about art as it is about saving the planet. The egg-shaped pod and the aim of the pod have been designed keeping in mind the circle of life and making a statement. “We wanted to highlight that we are part of the nature we are treating so badly in many ways.” says co-designer Raoul Bretzel.
The egg-shaped pod will house the body the same way as a traditional casket would. The biodegradable package is buried, and then a tree, chosen in advance by the deceased, is planted over it. The pod will decompose with the passage of time, feeding the soil with nutrients giving rise to new life.
But even this well-intentioned design faces many challenges, including legal and cultural. Natural burials, which is the term used for inventions like the pod, are illegal in Italy and other places. The other obstacle is modern society’s mentality towards burial; the idea of a traditional casket is deeply ingrained in society both culturally and through religion. It requires awareness and time for people to accept such a novel idea.
It is important to note that due to these challenges and restrictions, the burial pods are still in the process of production and are not yet marketed.
Even as the pod is not quite in use yet, it compels us as a society to rethink death as an ending and instead consider it a beginning of life through which we can continue our loved one’s legacy and truly be a part of its nature.
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