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The dead vastly outnumber the living, bringing to focus the unnoticed problem of funerary pollution. The old, wasteful interment into the ground or a crypt, in a fully decked coffin, eats up real estate and consumes resources. The new, environmentally conscious citizen wants to stay respectful of Mother Earth even upon returning to her bosom. So was born the concept of the “green funeral,” where ecologically sensible means of handling the departed remains shapes the final wishes of the deceased, or their family.

But these receptacles are the very last word in returning to the environment as much as one possibly can. It’s called the Capsula Mundi, in which remains are placed in an egg-shaped biodegradable container, which is then buried with a tree planted right on top of it, with the intention of the growing tree using the remains for fertilizer. At least, that’s the plan of designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel. Laws concerning regulation of cemeteries might not be flexible enough to allow a funeral park of growing tree in memory of the departed. But it’s a beautiful idea and we’d be a beautiful society if we adopted it.

If this concept sounds familiar, it’s because it’s deeply rooted (sorry, we tried to avoid that pun) in mythology. The ancient Greeks told of the dryad, a spirit living in a tree. They even had different classes of tree-spirits; ash tree spirits were Meliai, apple tree spirits were Epimeliad, and walnut tree spirits were Caryatid. Several of them were nurses to the baby Zeus.

Perhaps it reminds you of reincarnation? Burmese Buddhists have you covered there. Their word for nature spirits is simply “nats,” and cover tree spirits as well as spirits for everything from mountains to lakes. But the concept is loosely tied into the same reasoning as Capsula Mundi: We are all nature in different forms, and the tree that grows or the river that flows today exhales the same breath that our ancestors inhaled. For that matter, Hinduism and Buddhism in various denominations honor everything from flowers to lions as returned souls of those who lived before.

It cannot be denied that burial as tree seed is not only the most ecologically-friendly way to go, but one which would be the mark of a highly advanced society. Instead of chopping a tree down and carving it up into a coffin, our earthly essence could be used to make a new life grow. It’s certainly no stranger an idea than the ones we already practice when it comes to funerals.