This ‘Living’ Coffin Uses Mushrooms to Compost Dead Bodies
The ‘Living Cocoon’ has already been used in one burial, at the Hague
By Becky Ferreira
For tens of thousands of years, humans have developed funeral rites and burial practices that reflected the attitudes of their particular time and place. These traditions of honoring the dead continue to evolve into the 21st century, as people seek “green burials” that are more environmentally friendly than standard coffins.
One of the newest examples comes from Loop, a Dutch biotech company that recently unveiled a biodegradable coffin made of fungus, microbes and plant roots. Called the “Living Cocoon,” the coffin is designed to hasten bodily decomposition while also enriching soil around the plot.
“Normally, what we do as humans is we take something out of nature, we kill it, and we use it,” said Bob Hendrikx, founder of Loop, in a call. “So I thought: what if we humans start moving from working with dead materials toward a world in which we work with living materials?”
“We would not only become less of a parasite, but we could also start exploring super-cool material properties, like living lights, walls that are self-healing, and that kind of stuff,” he added.
Hendrikx was inspired to develop the Living Cocoon while presenting a living home concept at last year’s Dutch Design Week. While houses are obviously for the living, Hendrikx got to thinking about adapting the concept into a coffin powered by mushroom mycelium, which is the filamentary vegetative part of the fungus.
“Mycelium is nature’s biggest recycler,” Hendrikx said. “It is continuously looking for dead organic matter to transform into key nutrients.”