Lien is a redesign of the Taiwanese practice of burning joss paper to honor the deceased. It offers a zero-waste, all-inclusive package that fulfills the cultural needs of traditional, 49-day funerary rituals.
The project began with a life-cycle analysis of existing joss paper. From the analysis, I learned that modern joss paper is produced by soaking furniture manufacturing byproducts in nitric acid. During drying and burning, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds are released that cause cancer, skin irritation, and respiratory diseases. I sent a sample of the paper to EMS Laboratories to be screened for heavy metals. The results showed unsafe levels of Barium and Zinc. Despite harsh environmental and health impacts, demand is still growing. The belief reinforced by funeral homes and temples is, "The more you burn, the more you care." This led to the idea of a zero-waste, all-inclusive package that limits excessive behavior.
Core77: What's the latest news or development with your project?
I would love to see Lien adopted into funerary traditions in Taiwan, helping this quintessential part of our culture. It is critical that this tradition continues to thrive in a sustainable way. Next term, I am taking a class on how to take products to market as the first step to making this dream come true.
What is 1 quick anecdote about your project?
One of the difficulties I needed to overcome was how to make the act of burning paper a positive contribution to society. My eureka moment came when I learned that burnt tea leaves are often used to enrich soil in traditional Chinese farming. The new joss paper uses tea leaves instead of heavy metal seals to give the paper symbolic monetary value. When burned, the ash becomes fertilizer, rich in potassium.