Carrie Carter ’20 (Product Design BFA) was always a kid running around barefoot in the dirt.
“That’s my happy spot,” she said. “I love being outside in general.”
Her love of nature is part of the reason why her interest in sustainability has been lifelong.
Almost just as ingrained in her being is the idea of entrepreneurship. The daughter of a small businessman, the idea of launching her own venture was always in the back of her mind.
One reason she chose to pursue a BFA in Product Design at MICA is that the program promotes both of those interests. And it was during her last year at the College, as she was researching her senior thesis project, the two interests coalesced into something with real business potential.
“I knew I wanted to do something with sustainability, but I was also interested in human centered design, where the human is at the center point of all you do; so in making any product, you think about who you need to accommodate and how to give them a better experience,” she explained. “I did a lot of brainstorming, and somehow caskets and burial came up, the statistics about the raw materials used in the burial industry every year, and that impact on the Chesapeake Bay.”
She started going to the Green Burial Association of Maryland’s quarterly meeting as part of her research.The group is focused on green burials and death positivity, and in learning about that community, Carter realized others were looking for the kind of products and experience she was interested in pursuing.
So when the opportunity to take part in the UP/Start Venture Competition arose, applying came naturally; and her startup, Reside Burials, which was drawn from her thesis, made it to the finale despite being in the early stages of business development.
“Design is what I came in strongly with,” she said, but Carter also has a clear idea of Reside Burial’s identity and brand. “Our product is made out of a conifer composite and linen lining that’s completely biodegradable; and right now, it applies specifically to the Chesapeake watershed, because we have a lot of conifers that grow in this region. The idea is these are locally sourced caskets made out of local materials made by local people for other local people.”
With a short term goal to win funding as part of UP/Start, Carter hopes to start production and small scale distribution in the next two years.
She said, “We’re trying to do small scale loops. So we have a Chesapeake watershed loop that’s local, local, local. If that’s successful, we can do another East Coast loop, again with local materials. And then we can expand beyond that so that everything is loosely connected, but independent and focused on what’s local.”