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In the United Kingdom it’s known as the ‘dying trade’, though it is one of the fastest growing industry sectors in the country. Now it’s hitting the shores of the U.S. Witness the rise of natural burial.
The idea for Final Footprint® began in 2004. I had recently returned from my native England, with a crazy idea to have natural burial sites all over this country, as in England. Final Footprint® would supply the biodegradable caskets. After watching Six Feet Under, I decided that it would be possible, let passion win out over common sense, and started the company. Frequently told I am ahead of my time, I pursued my vision; researching, learning about natural burial, and the funeral industry in the United States.
When seeing that natural, biodegradable caskets were not being made in the United States, I connected with Ecoffins, one of the first natural casket manufacturers in England. I became its sole US distributor. I created an additional line of caskets visiting a manufacturer in Indonesia. Education seems to have been a major part of my business, being present at green festivals, speaking at events, and even taking booths at industry events to showcase natural caskets and burial. It’s a slow process. There is still too much red tape and because the general public does not get involved in regulations, the industry holds sway over most of the legislative issues. I have served on the board of my local Funeral Consumer Alliance chapter in Palo Alto, CA. and am still on an advisory committee. This is the only public advocacy group in the US with chapters in many cities. We need more though. England has a thriving organization, The Natural Death Center.
During my research I decided to also learn about home funerals as I felt this was an integral part of the dying process. Instead of giving your loved one over to strangers in a funeral home, we should be taking care of them in their own home in their environment. After this experience I assisted at two home funerals and it was a good experience to see how families benefit from participating in taking care of their loved one.
The same is just as important when it comes to the burial. All the stories I have heard from families, and my friend Ed Bixby, owner of Steelmantown Natural Preserve, in New Jersey, say how incredibly cathartic it is to be able to actually perform the burial.
Why spend millions on mining precious metals, cutting down valuable hard wood trees, and making polluting concrete vaults, to bury someone. It just doesn’t make sense. The equivalent of a Golden Gate Bridge is buried in our cemeteries every year. I guess banning plastic bags is a start!
The aim of all natural cemeteries is to keep the land as natural as possible, in keeping with the harmony of the surrounding environment. Preserve the open space for wildlife. Natural burial sites should be used and visited by the public, friends and relatives, just as one visits any park. Relax, slow down, and enjoy the wonderful, natural countryside and environment. Interring people in it after they die, is a very symbiotic process. More and more land is being built on and this is one very beautiful way to preserve it for wild life and for us to enjoy and then to return to.
As the famous naturalist Aldo Leopold wrote….
“Dust unto dust in a desiccated version of the Round River concept. . . . A rock decays and forms soil. In the soil grows an oak, which bears an acorn, which feeds a squirrel, which feeds an Indian, who ultimately lays him down to his last sleep in the great tomb of man—to grow another oak”.
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