Former Beverly Hills 90210 actor Luke Perry made headlines in 2019 after his daughter revealed he would be buried in a mushroom burial suit. It was one of his wishes to be buried in an "eco-friendly way", but how is that achieved with this product? And what exactly is a mushroom burial anyway? This article will discuss everything you need to know about mushroom burial suits, how they work, and what they cost.
What is a mushroom burial suit?
A mushroom burial suit, also know as the Infinity Burial Suit by its manufacturer Coeio, is a biodegradable burial shroud made from mushroom spores. The spores are designed to help decompose the body and filter toxins from it, so it does not contaminate surrounding plant life after a body is buried in it.
The suit is made by Coeio, a company founded by Jae Rhim Lee. She first introduced the suit in a fashion show in 2008; however, the idea for it began years before when Lee was in graduate school at MIT.
During her graduate education, Lee focused on making items that reimagine the way people live their lives (e.g., wearable furniture). After graduating, she began studying mycoremediation, a bioremediation technique that uses fungi to help decontaminate the environment.
It was during her studies that she visited a green cemetery. It sparked an interest in funeral practices, and she began looking at how mushrooms can be used as a vehicle to reimagine people's relationships with death.
After introducing the first burial suit in 2008, Lee launched the Infinity Burial Project. This served as a home for the Decompiculture Society, which supports and encourages acceptance towards death and decomposition. The group joined her in her research to learn more about the funeral industry and it also inspired Lee to work with mycologist Paul Stamets to learn more about cultivating mushrooms.
In 2011, Lee was invited to the TEDGlobal Conference in Scotland, where she introduced a version of the suit and explained the research she had accumulated through the years. See the video.
The Ted Talk appearance garnered a lot of attention and support for the product and the response encouraged Lee to continue her work to demystify death and dying (and eventually develop products.)
In 2014, she was appointed as a Lecturer and Fellow at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford to help further work on the Burial Project and met Mike Ma. After this fellowship, Lee and Ma founded Coeio.
First person to be buried in Coeio's mushroom burial suit
The first person buried in the burial suit was Dennis White, a 63-year-old carpenter who lived in Woodburn, MA. He was suffering from a terminal illness and was interested in an eco-friendly, unconventional burial. After his death White was laid to rest in the mushroom burial suit in the fall of 2016. This process was explored in the short documentary, Suiting Dennis.
Since then, the mushroom burial suit has garnered the interest of celebrities, such as Luke Perry; and famous zero waste fashion designer Daniel Silverstein, who worked with Coeio to design the latest version of the Infinity Burial Suit.
How much does the mushroom burial suit cost?
Coeio has produced several burial products: The traditional suit, a burial shroud, and pet burial products. There are also t-shirts to show support and fund ongoing research.
On their order page, customers are advised to email firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries and delivery. It also says that delivery is free to the continental US. However product purchasing has been disabled on the company website, so it is not clear if the company is actively selling its products. (We have reached out to the company to inquire further about availability and ordering and will update this article.)
In 2019, the suit was priced at $1,500 USD ($1914.59 CAD), and a small pet burial pouch was priced at approximately $200 USD ($255.28 CAD). The current price is unknown as it is not listed on the Coeio website.
By comparison, caskets are typically priced in the $2,000-$5000 range. Green burial plots also often fall within a similar price range to standard cemetery plots.
It is also essential to consider the value when choosing a green burial. Green burials, such as ones with the mushroom suit, can help minimize environmental impact. They do not use embalming fluids or toxic chemicals, and caskets or shrouds are made from biodegradable materials that allow bodies to decompose and incorporate back into the earth more naturally. Therefore, the cost may be worth it for those that want to give back to the environment in death.
How does the Coeio Infinity Burial Suit work?
The Infinity Burial Suit is a handmade burial garment made with a bio mix of mushrooms and other microorganisms that aid in decomposition, help to neutralize toxins, and provide nutrients to surrounding plant life.
Once the product has been sent to you, it should be stored in a cool, dark location until the time of burial.
The suits are designed to have a long, stable shelf-life, according to the Coeio website. However, if a customer believes that the suit was not stored properly, they can send it back to the company to refresh the bio mix.
At the time of burial, the deceased person's body is dressed in the suit and it should be buried within 24 hours to help ensure the mushrooms germinate correctly.
Regulations for how deep the body must be buried vary. However, the company advises that the suit should be buried at a depth of 4 ft; this is a typical burial depth in green cemeteries.
After the burial, the mushroom and microorganisms begin to germinate. As they grow, they releasing enzymes that decompose the body and help break down and neutralize toxins such as lead, mercury, pesticides, and BPA. This process helps to provide nutrients to the soil while avoiding contamination to plant life, making it an environmentally sustainable disposition option.
Is the mushroom burial suit legal to use?
The mushroom burial suit is accepted at most green burial cemeteries. These continue to pop up across Canada and the United States. Some traditional cemeteries (but not all) also allow burials in a shroud. Be sure to contact the cemetery to confirm the shroud provision in their bylaws.
Some current green burial locations in Canada include:
- Sunrise Park Inter-Faith Cemetery in Hatchet Lake, Nova Scotia
- Willow's Rest in Niagara Falls, Ontario
- Glenwood Cemetery in Picton, Ontario
- For additional Canadian green burial sites you can click here.
Coeio says on its website that the Infinity Burial Suit "is completely legal to use. Where the confusion comes in is that some funeral homes and cemeteries require a traditional casket to be buried. While they make it sound like a (casket is a) legal requirement, it actually has more to do with their own commercial goals."
Be sure to check with local authorities and the cemetery where a mushroom burial suit will be used to ensure the burial suit permissible.
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