You Can Feed Your Remains to Mushrooms

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Being buried or burned is so passé. shutterstock_107182085.jpg

That's not to say that they're altogether bad ways to deal with the deceased. Even though cemeteries take up a large amount of land, there's still something intrinsically natural and sacred about being returned to the Earth. And even though cremation uses an exorbitant amount of energy and accounts for up to 16% of the United Kingdom's mercury pollution (via dental fillings), it does save space.

But I mean, come on, we've been employing these techniques for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Isn't it time to try something new?

BBC News readers have jokingly suggested such methods as tossing remains into an active volcano or shredding the body and compacting it into a tiny cube, very much like what is currently done with clunker cars.

Surely, though, there must be choices which are more practical and -- ahem -- respectful?

One such novel option is called "resomation." Also known as alkaline hydrolysis, the process involves placing the dead body into a capsule-like chamber, throughout which a mixture of heated water and potassium hydroxide is gently circulated over a matter of hours. After all is said and done, only bones remain. Resomation is clean -- there are no directly associated carbon or mercury emissions -- and peaceful. It's very quiet and efficient; decomposition occurs over a matter of hours instead of months or years. The procedure is commercially available in Florida, Minnesota, Maryland, Oregon, Kansas, Colorado and Maine.

Another alternative, "mushroom decompiculture," is still in the experimental stages. TED fellow Jae Rhim Lee is behind this innovative venture. She is currently in the process of cultivating mushroom strains which will both decompose our bodies and clean any environmental toxins they contain. Her plan is to incorporate these mushroom spores into a full body garb, which she has endearingly dubbed the "Mushroom Death Suit." Actual testing of the suits on deceased subjects should start within the next 12 to 18 months.

Of course, there is still one widely available option that's simple, free of cost, respectful, and a boon for the living: donating your body to science. Up to 20,000 cadavers are donated each year. Many of them are used to help train future doctors and surgeons, while others are used for meaningful clinical research on Alzheimer's Disease and other ailments.

We can't necessarily choose the time or manner of our passing, but ironically, we can decide what happens after.

(Dead Man Image via Shutterstock)

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