November 2, 2004

Simple Living, Simple Dying

Watch the movement towards Green Burials increase in popularity as nature lovers and environmentalists learn they can choose to make the manner of the disposal of their bodies a statement of their values.

    The ideas behind green burials are simple. Bodies are not embalmed. Elaborate caskets made of metal or rare tropical hardwoods are replaced with fabric burial shrouds or simple, biodegradable coffins made of wood or cardboard. Concrete grave liners or vaults that prevent the ground above the coffin from settling are avoided.

    Perhaps most significantly, in lieu of carefully manicured cemetery grounds, native plants and wildflowers are allowed to flourish, turning the burial ground into a nature preserve. "It preserves the land and the habitat for the animals," said Ramey. "Our habitat is going quickly, and if we don't preserve it, we won't have any."

    Though there are over 200 green cemeteries in Great Britain, the movement is relatively unknown in the United States. South Carolina, Florida, California and Texas have the only four green cemeteries currently operating here. Several more green burial facilities are being planned throughout the country.

Others argue that the traditional home funeral where bodies were bathed, anointed with oils and prepared for burial by the people who loved them is the way to go.

"The typical American funeral is a commercially created tradition," said Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a grassroots organization raising awareness of alternative funeral choices. "The general line in the industry is that a traditional funeral has a fancy casket and a hearse. But the truly traditional funeral in America is a home funeral,"

Jerry Lyons, a home funeral guide in Sonoma County says,

    "These are people who want to take charge and be responsible for their own family members, and to lend themselves to more privacy and intimacy," she said. "Many religious and spiritual backgrounds call for this type of home wake."

    According to Lyons, the home funeral greatly helps survivors with the grieving process. "There's coherence and continuity for the family. It allows more time to visit and view the body, to say prayers, and to visit in the middle of the night," she said. "It brings death back into the cycle of life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at November 2, 2004 8:04 AM | Permalink

I wonder if cremation is not the ultimate green burial. It still allows for home funerals and saves on cemetary space.

Posted by: Ronni Bennett at November 2, 2004 2:07 PM

Yah, but that's wasted energy. And it contributes to global warming. Decomposition of a body nourishes the soil and the living beings and plants in and above the soil, as creepy as that sounds.

Posted by: Jill at November 2, 2004 3:22 PM