Getting buried in this suit of mushrooms could help save the planet.

Death: It's bad for us.

People who are actually dead have to deal with that whole not-being-alive thing, which is less than awesome. But those people probably aren't reading this right now. (And if you are, please tell me your secret!)

For the rest of us, losing a loved one can be tough on our emotional state. Every loss is different, and I can tell you from experience that they all suck in their own special way.



GIF from "Beetlejuice."

But death is also bad for our wallets.

Between the coffin, the service, and everything else, the average funeral costs a whopping $7,000.


GIF from "Ghostbusters."

On top of that, death is even killing the environment.

According to Scientific American, it takes more than 30 million board feet of wood annually to produce enough caskets. There's also the issue of those 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid used each year, which contain toxic carcinogens like formaldehyde that seep into the soil once the body decomposes. (And also turns embalming into a risky career.)

Cremation isn't much better either. More than 500 pounds of carbon dioxide get released into the atmosphere every time a corpse gets put through the furnace. Based on the average cremation rate of 38%, that's nearly 250,000 tons of CO2 every year, or the equivalent annual output of 50,000 cars.


GIF from "Parks and Recreation."

What else can we do with our bodies? One option is to feed our corpses to carnivorous mushrooms that will nourish the soil with our decomposing flesh. Seriously.

That's what artist/inventor Jae Rhim Lee wants to do, anyway. She calls this radical idea the Infinity Burial Suit, and it looks like this:


GIF via Sustainable Human/YouTube.

Here's how they describe it on the official website:

"[The Infinity Burial Suit] is embroidered with a special type of thread infused with infinity mushroom spores. When buried, the mushroom spores act to cleanse the body of many toxins and gently return the it to the earth. The end result: our bodies are transformed into vital nutrients that enrich the earth and foster new life."

It's basically a bodysuit made from biodegradable netting that's woven with specially cultivated mushrooms that help breakdown the cadaver into clean compost. Lee jokingly described this suit as "ninja pajamas," which you'd think would have more mass appeal than "sustainable mushroom death suit."

More importantly, it retails for a scant $999, which is waaaaaay less than you'd pay for a standard funeral with a fancy casket. Did I mention it's also available for pets?


It's like this. Kind of. But for dead people. GIF from "Super Mario World."

But wait: It gets even weirder.

Apparently it's difficult to breed a special hybrid mushroom strain in a laboratory. So Lee has been growing standard shiitake and oyster mushrooms by ... um ... feeding them toenail clippings, loose hairs, skin cells, and whatever else naturally sheds from her body. Over time, this trains the mushrooms to, well, develop a taste for people.

OK, so it might not sound like the most conventional way to go about it. But when you start to think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

"I realize this is not the kind of relationship that we usually aspire to have with our food," Lee said with a laugh. "We want to eat, not be eaten by, our food. But as I watch the mushrooms grow and digest my body, I imagine the Infinity Mushroom as a symbol of a new way of thinking about death and the relationship between my body and the environment."


GIF via Neil Bromhall/YouTube.

Are you grossed out but intrigued? You're not alone. Lee's TED Talk has more than a million views ... which means she's onto something.

No matter how much we try to talk around it or avoid the subject all together, death is part of our lives. And while it can be sad, it doesn't have to be bleak — in fact, it can be kind of beautiful in a bittersweet way. Because it's all part of the wondrous cycle of life.

As Lee says at the end of her TED Talk, "Accepting death means accepting that we are physical beings who are intimately connected to the environment. [...] We came from dust and will return to dust. And once we understand that we're connected to the environment, we see that the survival of our species depends on the survival of the planet. I believe this is the beginning of true environmental responsibility."

GIF via TED/YouTube.

The Infinity Burial Suit helps us confront some uncomfortable truths about mortality.

Death might be inevitable, but we shouldn't have to pay extra for it while also poisoning the Earth.

Besides, what better legacy is there to leave behind than a better, brighter world for the next generation to enjoy with the knowledge that you literally gave your life to help the planet thrive?

GIF from "Scream Queens."

Watch Jae Rhim Lee's full TED Talk below. You might find yourself surprisingly inspired.

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less
via DCist / Twitter

The 2020 general election will be unlike any in U.S. history due to a large number of people voting before election day, November 3.

The COVID-19 pandemic has many voting early, either in-person or by mail, so they can avoid large crowds of people. While others are mailing in their ballots early due to concerns over President Trump's attempts to stifle voter turnout by disrupting the United States Postal Service.

Four states officially started early in-person voting on Friday and if the number of people who've already cast a ballot in Virginia is any indication of a nationwide trend, voter turnout is going to be massive this year.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

With many schools going virtual, many daycare facilities being closed or limited, and millions of parents working from home during the pandemic, the balance working moms have always struggled to achieve has become even more challenging in 2020. Though there are more women in the workforce than ever, women still take on the lion's share of household and childcare duties. Moms also tend to bear the mental load of keeping track of all the little details that keep family life running smoothly, from noticing when kids are outgrowing their clothing to keeping track of doctor and dentist appointments to organizing kids' extracurricular activities.

It's a lot. And it's a lot more now that we're also dealing with the daily existential dread of a global pandemic, social unrest, political upheaval, and increasingly intense natural disasters.

That's why scientist Gretchen Goldman's refreshingly honest photo showing where and how she conducted a CNN interview is resonating with so many.

Keep Reading Show less
ZACHOR Foundation

"What's 'the Holocaust'?" my 11-year-old son asks me. I take a deep breath as I gauge how much to tell him. He's old enough to understand that prejudice can lead to hatred, but I can't help but feel he's too young to hear about the full spectrum of human horror that hatred can lead to.

I wrestle with that thought, considering the conversation I recently had with Ben Lesser, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who was just a little younger than my son when he witnessed his first Nazi atrocity.

It was September of 1939 and the Blitzkrieg occupation of Poland had just begun. Ben, his parents, and his siblings were awakened in their Krakow apartment by Nazi soldiers who pistol-whipped them out of bed and ransacked their home. As the men with the shiny black boots filled burlap sacks with the Jewish family's valuables, a scream came from the apartment across the hall. Ben and his sister ran toward the cry.

They found a Nazi swinging their neighbors' baby upside down by its legs, demanding that the baby's mother make it stop crying. As the parents screamed, "My baby! My baby!" the Nazi smirked—then swung the baby's head full force into the door frame, killing it instantly.

This story and others like it feel too terrible to tell my young son, too out of context from his life of relative safety and security. And yet Ben Lesser lived it at my son's age. And it was too terrible—for anyone, much less a 10-year-old. And it was also completely out of context from the life of relative safety and security Ben and his family had known before the Nazi tanks rolled in.

Keep Reading Show less