A sustainable coffin that helps us benefit the earth even after death

Shaina Garfield, a young industrial designer, realized how close death truly is at all times when she contracted Lyme Disease. Face to face with the subtle futility of life, she gave a lot of thought to the end of life and what it entails. She realized that we, humans, are always deeply connected to nature, even if we may try to escape it. But our traditional burial methods when life does come to end are harmful to nature. During burial, cremation and even embalming a lot of toxins are released into the soil, air, and water, polluting them. Hence, Garfield designed Leaves. Leaves is a sustainable and eco-friendly coffin that offers a more beneficial alternative to the traditional burial methods used today. Leaves was designed “to acknowledge the transformation from death into new life”, to rekindle a connection to nature and to care for it even when life comes to an end.

Designer: Shaina Garfield

Wholly centered around biodegradable materials, the concept of Leaves includes wrapping the body in natural cotton. The body is then placed on a pinewood base and is held and supported by a meshwork of rope. The dye of the rope has been embedded with fungal spores. After the body is buried, the fungi grow, multiply and speed up the body’s natural decomposition process. At the same time, the fungi absorb and eat any toxins in the body, only permitting nutrients such as oxygen and nitrogen to enter the soil.

Once the soil is healthy and full of nutrients, which takes around a year, a tree is planted above the burial site. This symbolizes a beacon of new life, a ray of hope and an ode to nature. Garfield says, “This transforms our definition of a cemetery from a place with loads of dead bodies to a beautiful park full of new life.”

And it is indeed a beautiful sentiment. In fact, even the experience of tying the ropes on the coffin can be meditative and therapeutic for the mourners, aiding them in their process of healing. The entire concept and design of Leaves attempt to transform death into an organic experience wherein the wellbeing of nature and the mourners are centerfold. A tree marks where our loved one is buried, creating a physical memorial, and signifying the beginning of new life. Garfield’s Leaves could truly transform conventional burial processes! What do you think?