Eco Coffin Project Artist: Colleen Storer Milne (2023)

Colleen Storer Milne

Eco-coffin, shroud and urn

Artist: Colleen Storer Milne

Type: Eco Coffin, Shroud & Urn

Title: If I Were A Leaf


  • eco coffin 2000x530x330mm
  • shroud 900 x 1830 mm
  • urn 400 x 100 mm

Materials: eco-cardboard, eco-paint, eco-markers, unbleached calico, reclaimed material & paper, felt, cotton, eco-glue

Why did you choose to work on a shroud, coffin & urn?

My name is Colleen (Storer) Milne, I have a niche business located in The Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia called Returning Home AUS.

I sell eco friendly and biodegradable funeral products directly to the public. My choices for this event include an eco friendly coffin, handmade shroud and urn that have been lovingly crafted specifically for SALA 2023. These lovely funeral items show my passion about the environment and humanity’s impact, along with sensible and affordable items specifically for end of life burial options.

I love the movement and the fast growing trend towards renewing ownership of rites and rituals. So choosing to use recycled and reclaimed organic materials for the coffin, urn and shroud resonates on a deep environmental and spiritual level for me.

Following my own end of life plans has connected me with deep soulful choices remembering ancient traditions of funeral ceremonies, using a simple yet beautiful coffin, making a shroud and designing a fit for purpose urn for the scattering of ashes. I want to honour my own life in death with products made from materials that are earth friendly, so that when I return to the earth in death it’s with the least negative carbon footprint possible.

What materials have you used for your artwork?

Selection of materials include a range of organic materials, from recycled paper and recycled cardboard, handmade non-toxic glues, unbleached calico, and other reclaimed materials, felt and cotton, environmentally friendly paints and sealers.

What is the story behind your artwork. What does it represent about you and your life story?

The theme I’ve chosen is around leaves and depicting them on the coffin and the urn in paint as well as a written text. I included a small portion of text, If I were a Leaf, by the poet Wang Gian on the lid of the coffin and on the urn. When I look at nature and specifically trees I’m struck by the similarity of the life cycle of humans to that of leaves. As the young leaf emerges from a bud on the branch so does the young human from their mother. As the leaf grows on the branch and the human grows within the family, they experience changes throughout their life. From the young tender bud, and throughout life, both endure seasons and conditions, bending in the wind, bowing to the sun, nourished and weighted down by the rain. Both begin a life full of promise, both grow throughout their life despite the conditions that bear down upon them and both face the ultimate time of beginning to wave less, bear less and bow less. In this way the human imitates the passages of time set within the leaf, the time to be born and the time to finally begin to die and release from the branch of life. To take on another form, and to fall to the earth from where it began in it’s surrender and it’s beauty, because nature takes its course, and so do I.

What are 3 things you have learned from being part of the eco coffin project?

  • The Eco Coffin Project has been a wonderful experience, it’s allowed me to learn what is legal in Australia, the current options and those of the future.
  • In my personal experience, people are nervous about talking about death in general, however the Eco Coffin Project demonstrated the interest that people really have, the questions they don’t know who to ask, and the ways to start conversations around death and dying – the evidence was that the group was totally booked out!
  • It has been comforting to know that there is a growing interest in reclaiming personal ownership of one’s own death and those of loved ones which include old rites and rituals becoming new, choices around how and where to be buried/cremated and the support that is available to each of us in making decisions around end of life options.

What is one thing you will do (or have done already) differently as a result from being part of the project?

To become more involved in movements like the VAD program (Voluntary Assisted Dying) and to support people in their choices for their own end of life plans.

Any other thoughts or comments you would like to add?

It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know the people who attended the group sessions, the young ones and those in retirement as well as those currently working. Hearing people’s stories has been a real honor and to be led by the very talented Abby Buckley has been a delight. Thanks Abby, you are a wonderful human!


If you have questions you don’t know who to ask, if you have no idea what dying is all about and even if you do, do yourself a huge favour and go along to one of the best sessions you’ll have in your life, take up this opportiunity and for a very reasonable price, get to meet others and talk about stuff we all need to know. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know, death and dying is all around us and we can learn more about it’s gift and it’s beauty. After all, each and every one of us will die, why not find out what you want? Have fun in a relaxed space, learn and laugh, you might just make a new friend! I certainly have 🙂

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