It’s the surprising and beautiful nature of inspiration that brings us answers to our problems from the most unexpected places. Sometimes, an answer can come from another problem, or combining different concepts to create solutions to multiple issues. At the moment, we need to pull carbon out of the air. We need to restore ocean habitats, and, seemingly unrelated, we need to find more sustainable ways of handling our deceased. An elegant solution to all of these is actually combining them.
Two students from Imperial College London and London’s Royal College of Art created a way to restore oyster reefs and sequester carbon with human ashes with their new startup, The Resting Reef.
Burials at sea, but closer to the shore
Cremation uses a great deal of energy, releasing 500 pounds of carbon dioxide per cremation. Resting Reef’s designers, Louise Lenborg Skajem and Aura Elena Murillo Pérez, provided an alternative for the burial industry by creating urns from crematory ash that can be dropped into shallow waters and become oyster habitats.
The team’s unique design combines crematory ash and oyster shells from food waste and 3D-prints these materials into an urn. They’re designed to look like the very first reefs found on our planet, stromatolites, resembling little reef-like mounds.
Helping oysters to help the planet
“Most people know that coral reefs are endangered, but oyster reefs are more important,” Skajem said to Fast Company.
The developers wanted to reinvigorate the world’s oyster reefs, which actually act as a significant carbon sink. Oyster reefs have diminished by over 85 percent in the last 100 years due to pollution and overharvesting.
One of Resting Reef’s urns can house up to 100 oysters. According to the Resting Reef’s developers, this is enough to sequester up to five million pounds of carbon dioxide over three years.
The project is currently in the testing phase at London Aquarium, seeing how the oysters will take to the urns, but Resting Reef envisions burial ceremonies in the future that remember the deceased by preserving and bringing life back into the world.
“We wanted to create something that was desirable,” said Murillo Pérez, “because this is going to be the legacy that people leave.”