When it comes time for me to buy the farm, I may be able to become the farm as well. Instead of choosing to be embalmed with toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) or cremated and releasing particulate matter and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, I can now tell my loved ones to bury me in the Sustainable Mushroom Death Suit.
Visual artist Jae Rhim Lee created this full body shroud laced with spore infused threads as a part of the Infinity Burial Project which proposes “alternatives for the postmortem body”. Now, in addition to being flash frozen and shattered by sonic waves, composted, or incorporated into artificial ocean reefs, you can become substrate for mushrooms that not only naturally decompose your body, but help clean the surrounding environment.
Lee, along with mycologist Timothy Myles, has been investigating which strains of mycelium thrive best on human tissue by experimenting with her own hair and fingernail clippings and has developed a “decompiculture” kit that adds spores to embalming chemicals and makeup. Dubbed the “Infinity Mushroom”, this special strain of fungus helps to quickly and efficiently break down dead human tissue as well as neutralize toxins around the burial site.
According to the CDC, human bodies contain over 200 toxic chemicals at the time of death, including pesticides, fungicides, flame retardants, heavy metals, and ingredients found in the production of plastics. As a final gift to the world, the Mushroom Suit could render these compounds harmless and eliminate the need for dangerous embalming fluids.
In addition to acting as a sustainable way to return one’s body to the earth, the Mushroom Suit is also Lee’s personal exploration into the psychological response to death. Considering that embalming is a relatively new development in human history and the current state of our planet’s ecological health, leaving our earthly husks as mini clean-up crews might not be such a bad idea. By donning the mushroom shroud, you could leave the world a little healthier upon your departure.
Would you rejoin the Cycle of Life as a miraculous mushroom?
P. S. If you’re into consuming mushrooms in the here and now, like the edible kind, be sure to check out our article on Hunting Chanterelles in San Luis Obispo. I think you’ll really dig it!
Special thanks to Morgana Matus for contributing this blog post.
Photo Credit: Amanita jacksonii button mushrooms (Wikipedia)