Green Is the New Dead

When it comes to planning a funeral, today’s options are no
longer limited to caskets and cremation. Some earth-conscious folks
are eschewing toxic embalming fluid and hardwood coffins for a
natural burial — just the body, maybe in a shroud or pine box.
Writing for
Grist, Gregory Dicum reports that while
green funerals are the buzz — the mortuary drama Six Feet
featured two of them — the demand for such services
is still very low. ‘[T]he two most prominent green cemeteries —
Ramsey Creek Preserve in South Carolina and Fernwood in Northern
California — have performed fewer than 200 green burials
between them in the past five years,’ writes Dicum. The
Green Burial Council is hoping to change

The outfit has drawn up the first US certification guidelines
for eco-burial grounds in two categories, natural and conservation.
The former bans embalming fluids, vaults, and earth-unfriendly
grave markers. The latter couples green burial facilities with land
trusts — land for eco-burials would be designated for

Green Burial Council executive director Joe Sehee is optimistic
that the new standards will be to death-care what organic and
fair-trade standards are for food. ‘Allowing people to feel as
though their last act on earth contributes to a positive purpose
connects them in an almost religious way to this concept,’ explains
Sehee. He predicts that several California facilities will be
certified by the fall, and, after a year, there will be dozens of
certified facilities across the country. Sehee says that the
challenge will be getting word out about the services. ‘We have
these standards,’ he says, ‘and we have a very credible entity
that’s put them forth, but no one knows about them.’ Dicum points
out that even with the new certification program, the services
might not take off. Mortuary facilities are wary of investing in a
‘cottage industry,’ and they won’t do so until consumers demand it.
But that demand would rely on customers confronting their own
demise early enough to plan a natural burial — something that many
Americans avoid.

Time will tell if the new certification program can bring to
fruition the natural burials that some people have been hearing
about for years. With many people aiming to live lightly on the
earth, they may want their death to be conscientious as well. —
Rachel Anderson

Green Is the New Dead

Related Links:
Rest in Peace the Green Way
Fernwood Funeral Home

Creek Preserve

Related Links in the Utne Archive:

Good Life, Good Death

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