Urban Death Project Pushes Innovation in New Burial Methods

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The global environment and climate are becoming regular headlines. They will certainly figure to be focal points of the upcoming presidential election, and as we across the country (and world) begin to see the impact more consistently, the issue will become even more pressing. All industries are having to adapt to these changes - some more than others - even death care. The availability of land, unpredictable weather, cremation, et cetera - all of these major forces of disruption in our industry relate in ways both big and small to the large, but limited, resource that is our planet. Much is being made of the differences between the aging Baby Boomer generation and the younger generations (especially the Millennials) and the differences of needs, wants, and concerns between the two. As both generations (and those in between) continue to age, we will certainly begin to see a shift in decision makers and we need to be prepared to address new the new concerns that they bring with them.

With those new issues comes a pivot towards them, and one of the more intriguing ideas originated on the project fundraising platform Kickstarter where it raised over $90,000 in less than 2 months. It’s called the Urban Death Project, a “compost-based renewal system,” and it’s an alternative to traditional forms of burial and memorialization. Bodies, along with carbon-producing compost materials, are placed into a three-story concrete core that contains the compost process. These cores would be reproducible, and their locations within each city determined by the people that live there.

In the funerary industry - regardless of religion - ritual and ceremony are extremely important components to the process. Grieving families not only seek a respectful and beautiful experience for their loved one, but also draw comfort from the familiar routine. Itself not so dissimilar from a mausoleum, the Urban Death Project is not only trying to create a new space for memorialization, but a new process for mourning itself. In their ceremony, the body is dressed in a shroud and carried to the top of the core by family members before being placed inside. That element of closeness, with your loved ones and with the burial process, may be a major selling point. Something like this though certainly isn't for everyone, but this kind of forward-thinking innovation that engages with the core values of memorialization and the death care industry is exciting to see.