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When music-video director Tim Pope teamed up with The Cure to sing “I Want to be a Tree” in 1985, he possibly wasn’t being literal. But this worthy, if unusual, sentiment seems to have served as an inspiration for Barcelona-based designers Martín Azúa and Gerard Moline, who bring us the Bios Urn – part of a recent surge in eco-friendly funeral products on the market. Now you too can aspire to be a tree.

For those of us for whom ‘green-living’ is important, it might also be prudent to consider ‘green-dying’. It’s a morbid thought, but alongside taxes, death is one of the few certainties in life – as is environmental damage. With this in mind we’ve seen banana-leaf coffins, Silk- Screened Eco Pods, woodland burials, and a slew of new funeral homes and companies offering greener choices for those preparing to meet their Maker. And why not?

The population of the Earth is growing at a frenetic rate; we’re running out of space to build houses and factories, let alone to set aside valuable land for cemetery use. Precious pine, mahogany and yew trees have to be cut down for caskets (approximately 437,000 coffins are burned annually in UK crematoriums alone). Leaking embalming fluid pollutes soil (827,060 gallons of formaldehyde, phenol, methanol and many other chemicals are buried each year in the United States). And lest we forget, carbon dioxide emissions are cooking our planet. Step forward Bios Urn, which its creators believe could help alleviate much of the above. A snip at just 137 euros an urn, you’ll also keep your burial costs down – something all of us in the grip of economic recession will be relieved to hear.

Bios Urn, eco-funeral, sustainable burial, hipster death

In the words of the team behind Bios Urn “[the] project reintroduces the human being to the natural circle of life. It is the profane ritual of regeneration and the return to nature.” The urn itself is designed to regenerate and return to nature, being made from entirely biodegradable materials – coconut husk, peat and cellulose – not unlike much of the growth media used in hydroponics. It’s also the perfect environment for the seed of a tree to flourish – which is exactly what you’ll find once you pop it open.

Cremated human remains contain calcium phosphate, which acts as an excellent plant fertiliser (it is worth noting however, if you intend to choose your own seed type, that human remains tend to have a relatively high pH value – so trees that flourish in acidic soil might struggle in your urn). Just add a freshly cremated dead body, plant in a suitable location, and in a number of years determined by your seed choice (Aleppo Pine is the default, but can be easily replaced) – you’ll have a beautiful tree where your loved one used to be.

Bios Urn, eco-funeral, sustainable burial, hipster death

As you’d expect from two multiple award-winning designers whose work is frequently inspired by nature; the packaging is simple and radiating modern, ‘green’ chic – not unlike an Innocent Smoothie or an organic soya drink – with its fetching logo comprised of a hand-drawn outline of a man with the universal recycling icon for a head. The pleasing design might leave you tempted to buy one well before your time on this Earth is up, but keep in mind seeds left more than a year or two without being planted might fail to grow. Equally, the Bios Urn itself shouldn’t be kept for more than three years and even then only in dry storage.

For those of you wishing to give your pet that special send off , there’s no reason why the Bios Urn can’t be used for animals. In fact, Azúa is proud of the fact that Copito de Nieve (a.k.a. “Snowflake”), an albino gorilla, once the pride of Barcelona zoo, is currently enjoying life as a tree somewhere in Catalunya as we write, having been buried in a Bios Urn in 2003. And as more or less any seed can be used, Fido can quite easily become a Yucca or a Rose bush – depending on the size of your garden. So it is with regret that we must acknowledge each and every one of us of will one day cast off his mortal coil, but we can take comfort in the thought of finishing our days in a Bios Urn. As your seed begins to sprout, it will draw nutrients from your ashes, thereby retaining a degree of your “essence”. You will, in the loosest sense, live on in that tree – thereby achieving Tim Pope’s – and perhaps now your – lifelong ambition.


This article was originally published in Issue 003 of HYDROMAG (January – February 2013).

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