Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer



But pretty nearly.  What a pity. These beautiful paper mâché, seed-shaped coffins are gorgeous.  They’re also a pretty good eco-option, as they’re made from recycled newspapers and magazines.  

I’ve been planning on having one for years – I particularly like the gold ones.  This month I decided to bite the bullet and get one. The idea was that I could hang it from our kitchen ceiling, until the time comes.  A good talking point and an unusual art piece.  But I can’t.  I’ve discovered that there are only about four Ecopods that haven’t either been cremated or buried – a couple in the US, one belonging to the Ecopod creator and one more.  What a pity.  

One of the things about every other coffin I’ve ever seen is the shape – coffin shaped…. Taking inspiration from a seed, the Ecopod feels more organic and natural.  Back to where we came from – seed to seed, rather than ashes to ashes.   

I talked to Peter Rock, one of Ecopod’s creators. He says that when the Ecopod was first introduced in 2000 it drew a lot of attention and became very popular. But the orders slowly dried up over the next few years. He thinks there were a number of reasons for this. Mainly that they were relatively expensive when compared to the new woven bamboo and wicker coffins coming from the Far East, which began to take over the alternative coffin market.

Ecopod being planted…

Second, the funeral industry was never supportive – in fact rather the opposite.  It seems that they’re an industry reluctant to change. Taking a less charitable perspective they have a very profitable business model and don’t want disrupters. One of the novel things about Ecopods is that they came with some pretty sturdy straps which meant that they were relatively easy to carry – you didn’t need 6 strong men, of roughly similar height, to mount the coffin on their shoulders.  Peter told me a rather chilling story about a lady burying a relative and choosing an Ecopod. He says that he saw that the body fitted into the pod, but the funeral director told his customer that it didn’t.  A lesson in how to kill off the competition. 

Is there a chance for Ecopods to be resurrected?  A slim one it seems.  Peter says that they need quite a significant investment, but if they got it, they could re-introduce them. And, perhaps it might be successful this time round – an idea whose time has come.  I certainly hope that it happens before I die, so I can rest in ‘pod’ – either at home, amongst my wilding, or close by.  

Here’s more positive news.  For those of you who would like to be cremated, the Ecopod team have created Acorn Urns.  They’re also made using recycled paper and are rather beautiful – you can even get a gold one.  I’ve just discovered some ashes in a Tupperware container – they nearly got inadvertently thrown away (I’m being deliberately vague about how this has happened!). Now they’re going to be re-homed in an Acorn Urn. Nobody would chuck that in the bin… 

I’ve always thought that it was a bit ridiculous to chop down millions of trees to provide wood for coffins. Wouldn’t it make much more sense if we were all buried or burnt in something made from waste?  I’m about to face the choice for my mother who is near the end.  We’ve decided that a simple cardboard coffin is the answer.. Hopefully, it will break down and become compost along with its contents. It won’t take away from the love we feel for who she was and the life she lived.  

Sadly, an Ecopod coffin won’t be back soon enough…. 

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