It can be maintained until death do you part and 45 days more; a mushroom coffin is some people’s last wish

DELFT, Netherlands — For those who want to live in the most sustainable way, there is now an afterlife.

An intrepid Dutch inventor is now “growing” coffins by placing the root structure of mushrooms, mycelium, along with hemp fiber into a special mold that, in a week, turns into what is essentially an unpainted Egyptian sarcophagus.

And while traditional wooden caskets come from trees that can take decades to grow and take years to decompose in the soil, the mushroom versions biodegrade and deliver the remains to nature in just a month and a half.

In our 21st century, when the individual spirit can increasingly flourish beyond previous strictures, death and funerals are often still surrounded by traditions that fall far short of the visions of the deceased or their loved ones.

“We all have different cultures and we want to be buried in the world in different ways. But I think there are many of us, a large percentage of us, who would like it differently. And it’s been very old school for 50 or 100 years,” said Shawn Harris, an American investor in coffin maker Loop Biotech.

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As climate awareness and the special care of nature become the focus of more and more lives, Loop Biotech claims to have the answer for those who want to live the full circle of life – and then some – as close as they’ve always believed.

Bob Hendrikx, the 29-year-old founder, dressed in an “I am Compos” T-shirt at a recent presentation, said he has done a lot of research in nature “especially fungi. And I learned that they are the biggest recyclers on the planet. So I thought, hey, why can’t we be part of the cycle of life? Then he decided to grow a mushroom-based coffin. During funeral ceremonies, moss can be spread in coffins.

Those who prefer cremation also have an urn they grow, which they can bury with a tree sapling sticking out. So when the urn breaks, the ashes can help give life to the tree.

“Instead of ‘we die, we end up in the ground, and that’s it,’ now we have a new story: we can enrich life after death, and you can continue to grow as a new plant or tree,” Hendrikx said. “It brings a new narrative in which we can be part of something bigger than ourselves.”

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The caskets cost 995 euros (more than $1,000) each, and an urn costs 196.80 euros ($212).

In order to put nature at the center of such burials, Loop Biotech collaborates with Natuurbegraven Nederland (Nature Burials Netherlands), which uses six special habitats where remains can be buried in protected parks.

Currently, Loop Biotech can “grow” 500 caskets or urns per month and deliver throughout Europe. Hendrikx said they caught themselves in the Nordics.

“These are the northern European countries where there is more environmental awareness and there is also autumn,” he said. “This is how they know and understand the mushroom, how it works, how it is part of the ecosystem.”


Raf Caser reported from Brussels.