Those interested in a natural burial after they've passed will soon have a new option to consider: the beautiful Capsula Mundi.

Shaped like a giant seed, the Capsula Mundi is made from a kind of biodegradable plastic that begins to break down as soon as it's buried. The human remains inside, interred in a fetal position, would then provide nourishment to a designated sapling planted above. The idea is that, over time, the remains of the deceased would become one with the tree.

“From a biological point of view, death is not the end but the beginning of a way back to nature: the body produces new elements through natural transformations,” creators Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli wrote last year. “The tree marks a remembrance place and provides a permanent memory of the person. Taking care of it will build up a feeling of continuity and the whole community will benefit from this legacy.”

Italian designers Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli created the Capsula Mundi as an ecological alternative to wasteful conventional coffins. Italian designers Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli created the Capsula Mundi as an ecological alternative to wasteful conventional coffins. (Photo: Capsula Mundi)

Like other natural burial grounds, Bretzel and Citelli envision memorial forests replacing the rows of tombstones present in traditional cemeteries. Should a tree die or become damaged, another would be planted in the same spot.

“A tree takes between 10 and 40 years to reach maturity, while a coffin is of use for just three days,” Bretzel told the National Post. “We want to plant trees instead of cutting them down.”

According to the Capsula Mundi site, a variety of biodegradable seed pods are currently in development, including one that can be adapted for pets. The company also recently released for sale its first pod for ashes called the Capsula Mundi Urn.

The biodegradable urn version of the Capsula Mundi comes in either "Sand" or "White" varieties. The biodegradable urn version of the Capsula Mundi comes in either "Sand" or "White" varieties. (Photo: Capsula Mundi)

"Once it’s in the soil, it takes from few months to few years to biodegrade, depending on local climate and soil conditions," the site states.

You can view a short TED talk given by Bretzel and Citelli on the inspiration and story behind the Capsula Mundi below.

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.