Instead of visiting your dearly departed grandmother in a cemetery, now it's possible to watch her ashes turn into a tree on your balcony.
The Bios Urn, made from coconut shells, compacted peat, and cellulose, holds a person's ashes along with a seed for a tree. As the urn decomposes, the tree roots take up the ashes and break through the small pod. Though the urn can be planted in the ground, the designers realized that city-dwellers not have access to land—and might want to keep a family member closer.
"The Bios Urn was designed to be planted on the ground, or in a natural setting like a forest," says Roger Moliné, co-founder of the Spain-based company. "We noticed that a lot of people wanted to have the Bios Urn, or the tree growing close to them—somewhere they could personally see it growing, and nurture it to life."
In response, they designed a new "tree incubator" called the Incube, a pot small enough to fit on a balcony or deck. The biodegradable urn fits inside. It also comes with a small kit of sensors that measure moisture, temperature, and sunlight, as well as an automatic watering system to keep the tree alive. An app allows for tracking the growth of the tree.
The creators found that some people who aren't gifted at gardening were nervous about the whole idea. They wanted to take out as much of the guess work as possible. "We designed it in a way that practically ensures growth," says Moliné.
The system helps avoid the environmental impacts of traditional burial, like formaldehyde that can leach from coffins into the soil. But for family members who are still alive, it's also a way to stay connected longer and offers a different way to grieve.
"Everyone has mentioned that they want to be a tree after they die," Moliné says. "But since we’ve launched Bios Incube, we’ve seen that people are also excited for the fact that you can experience the growth of the tree that comes from your loved one's remains. I think this is really interesting because if we are able to turn the process of death—which is always related with grief and desolation—to an educative and emotionally appealing moment of life itself, we will have achieved a lot."
The designers are raising funds for manufacturing on Kickstarter.