Monday, December 14, 2009

Green Burial

*Photo Courtesy of Ramsey Creek
Today, December 16th, 2009, I launched my first e-zine, here is the complete featured article.

"Green Burial"
You might have heard of this...or maybe it's a totally new (and weird-sounding) concept. It's a relatively recent 'meme' in the world of sustainability. But it's really a very old idea. When we think of burials or cemeteries,we don't immediately think "green". Connecting the word 'green' with 'death' might bring to mind something left too long in the back of the refrigerator, rather than ecological burial practices! But let's give it some thought.

If you’ve lived a whole life aimed toward living lightly on the earth—recycling your trash, eating organic food, avoiding chemicals and pollutants—why would you abandon all of that at the end?

So what is a Green Burial? Here's a basic description. The body is not embalmed. A biodegradable casket, shroud or other burial covering or container is used. There is no 'grave liner'. And it's best if the grave is less than the proverbial "6 Feet Under",to give the microbes responsible for that 'ultimate act of recycling' a fighting chance. (Be honest, that gave you a little shudder, didn't it?--But you might think of it this way; It's your last and precious gift to the earth to let her digest your remains to make new soil!)

I know most of us don't give much thought to the lack of biodegradable containers for burial, or the toxicity of embalming fluid. Even if you've thought ahead and chosen a simple wooden casket, you may not be aware that it will probably be encased in a concrete "grave liner" rather than lowered directly into the earth.

This lack of awareness is partly because as a culture, we're in a lot of denial about death. We don't examine these options until we’re actually making arrangements for the death of someone we love. (not the best time to make an informed choice). And in many modern funeral homes and cemeteries, our choices are fairly limited. But that is beginning to change as the generation who invented "Earth Day" begins to face mortality.

The good news is that the number of Green Burial sites here in the U.S. is growing. Conventional cemeteries are even starting to dedicate sections for green burial. If you're Jewish, you've got a head start on this. Jewish burial custom includes all of the above---simple wooden box, burial shrouds, no embalming and the casket in direct contact with the earth, and Jewish cemeteries have long been managed accordingly. Many of the new Green Burial sites go so far as to stipulate no headstones, just grass, trees and native plants or flowers. Graves are mapped, for ease of location. (sometimes GPS is used) Some allow a tree, plant, or flat indigenous stone to serve as a simple marker. The idea is that the land used this way creates a nature preserve for generations to enjoy strolling, hiking, picnicking or simply contemplating. In this way, we honor both the living and the dead...right there altogether, where we belong.

This is the extended article from the E-Zine of a Fine Farewell . We post there twice a month, with additional information included in this blog, I invite you to subscribe here.