During our living years, there are many ways we can contribute to the green movement and give back to the earth that we are constantly taking from. We can recycle, compost, and grow our own vegetables. We can drive fuel-efficient cars, make our homes more energy efficient, and purchase eco-friendly products. However even in death we can still be environmentally responsible. Although cremation has become the most popular choice, as opposed to traditional burial, green burials or green funerals continue to rise in popularity throughout the world as well.
So what is the most environmentally friendly way to dispose of our bodies you ask? Well, it all depends on your preferences. For those that prefer to be buried, they can opt for essential oils to be used instead of standard embalming fluids, made of a combination of formaldehyde and rubbing alcohol. In addition, a biodegradable cedar, cardboard or bamboo casket can be used in the place of a heavy wood and metal casket. Some may choose to forgo the casket completely and opt for a natural burial, involving only a burlap sack and a burial plot in the woods if you have permission to do so. For those that like this option but may not have access to land to bury in, some cities may soon be partaking in the Urban Death Project, (which I have discussed before) where remains are used as compost, and turned over to create fertile soil.
If these options above aren’t necessarily for you, but you are still looking for ways to be mindful of the environment in your or your loved one’s departure from this world, here are some other green ideas:
• Place a candle or framed picture on the casket instead of the traditional floral arrangement. Or perhaps use cut flowers from your garden.
• Use a silk or cotton shroud or clothing to dress your loved one in.
• Print the song sheet and tribute cards on recycled paper.
• Avoid clothing which has non-biodegradable buttons and zips etc.
• Make sure any keepsakes placed in the casket are biodegradable.
• Catered food may be comprised of unprocessed food like fruit platters and vegetable dips.
These are just a few ideas. The list goes on, limited only by your imagination.
If you have questions, you can always ask your local funeral director about what sustainable options are available, or seek a funeral home that offers green practices. Currently, Phaneuf Funeral Homes is currently the only funeral home in NH approved by the Green Burial Council to offer a green burial package. However, most funeral directors are familiar with the green movement and can offer eco-friendly options.
In the end, it is about what you are most comfortable with. Do keep in mind however, that even the most energy-intensive acts of burial don’t compare to the carbon footprint each of us is leaving right now.