March 2, 2009

Your final carbon footprint

Two women from my home town of Arlington preach environmentalism after death.

Ruth Faas and Sue Cross, co-founders of Mourning Dove Studio where they sell ecopods and other biodegradable caskets, are "local groundbreakers in the natural burial movement."

Faas, 48, an occupational therapist, who opened Mourning Dove Studio in December, wants it to be "a resource space for people thinking about death and dying.

"I feel like we've been indoctrinated to do death care in a certain way in this country, and I'd like people to consider the environmental impact of their choices and whether or not these rituals hold meaning for us," she said.

The studio includes a casket display - with options that range from an $80 cardboard box to a $3,500 wicker coffin - and a spacious area for bereavement groups, workshops, art-making and coffin decorating. (For $15 per hour, customers can decorate a cardboard or pine box that they buy.) In Mourning Dove's reading room, people can browse through books about alternative death-care practices.

Faas and Cross are betting that a generation of aging baby boomers will start requesting green burials as awareness slowly dawns.

"We've been afraid to look at death, plan for it, and talk about it," said Cross, who came to this work by studying death rituals of her own Hungarian heritage. "We also end up spending a lot of money on things like concrete vaults and metal caskets that keep us from returning to the cycle of life."

While running a booth last May at the Down to Earth Expo, which drew 8,000 visitors to the Hynes Veterans Convention Center in Boston, Faas was not surprised by the number of environmentalists who, like herself a few years earlier, had never considered the impact of their final carbon footprint.

Still, Harris thinks green funerals will start moving into the mainstream in leaps and bounds. "There is something appealing about returning to the earth as your final act on earth, and using your remains to push up a tree."

I think I'm going to call on them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at March 2, 2009 5:14 PM | Permalink