What would you prefer to be when you die? It’s not the gentlest of conversation starters, but it’s a question that fascinates Dutch designer Bob Hendrikx.
He’s the founder of Loop, the startup that creates the Living Cocoon coffin. Hendrikx designed each coffin. Each one is made of mycelium, a densely woven mat containing fibres that makes up the underground-dwelling portion of fungi.
Each coffin takes just a week to grow – without heat, electricity or light according to Hendrikx – and then approximately two to three years to decompose along with the person’s body. Groundwater activates mycelium. The coffin’s interior is filled with a soft, mossy bed, which aids in the process of composting.
Hendrikx claims that conventional coffins take over 10 years to degrade and become part of the soil. Varnished wood, metal elements of the casket – not to mention synthetic clothing – all slow the process.
“When you die, you pollute the Earth,” he said. “Your body contains 219 chemicals, and in nature there is a mushroom that neutralises toxins from the body and soil. So, we thought: ‘Why not invent a living coffin, made from mushrooms, that enables you to no longer pollute the Earth but actually enrich life after death?’”
In 2020, the first funeral using a Living Cocoon took place, which Hendrikx described as a “moving moment”. Since then, 150 people have been buried in one; the firm has started a partnership with the Netherlands’ biggest funeral company; and opened its own factory.
We thought: ‘Why not invent a coffin that enables you to enrich life after death?
The Living Cocoons – which have been described as “the Tesla among coffins” – currently cost €1,495 (£1,260) plus shipping to buyers in Europe. They are also available for purchase by US buyers. Hendrikx hopes to reduce the cost of the product as production increases and the idea becomes more popular.
He’s sure it will. “For me, biodesign is collaborating with nature, no longer accepting to work with dead materials but to collaborate with living organisms,” he said. “So, imagine a world in which your everyday objects are alive: you have a T-shirt that is self-healing, we grow our own homes and of course, we die in a living coffin.”
Main image: Loop