EarthTalk: Green Burials


Published:

American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood, 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid.

Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that increasing eco-awareness around the world has now extended itself to the afterlife, whereby burials can even be "green." Is that true? — Mary Lewis, Duxbury, MA

Modern western-world burial practices are arguably absurd, all things considered. We pack our dearly departed with synthetic preservatives and encase them in impenetrable coffins meant to defy the natural forces of decomposition that have been turning ashes to ashes and dust to dust for eons. And in the process we give over thousands of acres of land every year to new cemetery grounds from coast to coast.

According to National Geographic, American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. Even cremation is an environmental horror story, with the incineration process emitting many a noxious substance, including dioxin, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide and climate-changing carbon dioxide.

But increasing demand for more natural burial practices has spawned changes in the industry, and dozens of funeral homes and cemeteries across the country have started to adopt greener ways of operating. Many of these providers are members of the non-profit Green Burial Council, which works "to make burial sustainable for the planet, meaningful for the families, and economically viable for the provider."

The organization partners with land trusts, park service agencies and the funeral profession to help consumers get the greenest burial experience possible. Its network of approved providers is committed to reducing the industry’s toxins, waste and carbon emissions. Many of the group’s member cemeteries — you can find a directory on the Green Burial Council’s website — offer clients the option of burying loved ones in more natural landscapes uncluttered by headstones and mausoleums. In place of a traditional headstone, for example, a tree might be planted over the grave. Instead of conventional wood and steel coffins, clients can bury loved ones in more biodegradable wicker or cardboard, or in a casket made of wood certified as sustainably harvested by the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council. Advocates of such greener burials say that people take comfort in knowing their bodies will decompose and become part of the cycle of nature.

Likewise, dry ice is becoming a popular, non-toxic alternative to embalming. According to Greensprings Natural Cemetery in Newfield, New York, "No state in the U.S. requires embalming, though some may require it if burial doesn’t take place within a set amount of time — usually 24 or 48 hours."

Even the practice of scattering ashes at sea has a new wrinkle. Florida-based Great Burial Reef will place urns with cremated remains within 100 percent natural, pH-balanced concrete artificial reefs placed at the bottom of the ocean. And Georgia-based Eternal Reefs will mix your ashes with the cement they use to create "reef balls" — hollow spheres that resemble giant wiffle balls that are sunk offshore. Loved ones equipped with the GPS coordinates can boat or even dive to visit the site of the remains.

Contacts: Green Burial Council, www.greenburialcouncil.org; Forest Stewardship Council, www.fscus.org.

Got an environmental question ? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881 or submit to www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek/. Read past columns at www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

January 19, 2018

Pace yourself and drive carefully if you’re up and out the door before dawn. After a tough early morning square to Mars, the Aquarius Moon sails void of course, without making another aspect until mid-afternoon. Wishing to be somewhere, anywhere else is…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

January 2018

Two Sundays, January 14th and February 11th Learn advanced techniques for self-care, to offer Reiki to others from a distance and for manifesting what you want in your life! Facilitated...

Cost: $250

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Join us the Second Sunday of the month at the Northeast Reiki Center classroom in Framingham for a Reiki Circle in the Usui Reiki System of Natural Healing. We are a gathering of Reiki...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 15 - February 23, 2018 A cross-cultural midwifery and global health experience ***Application Deadline November 3*** Come spend six weeks at the ACAM birth center, located in a...

Where:
ACAM Birth Center
Western Highlands of Guatemala, MA


Sponsor: Maya Midwifery International
Contact Name: Dena Moes
Website »

More information

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is...

Cost: $11-$15 per class

Where:
Chelmsford Wellness Center
3 Littleton Road, 2nd Floor
Westford, MA  01886
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

January 8 - February 12, 2018 Intuition + Energy Medicine + Energy Psychology = The REAP Healing Method This 6 week certification training course provides you with the understanding and the...

Cost: $695

Where:
Live Online
Comfort of Your Home
, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The REAP Healing Method
Telephone: 978-877-8651
Contact Name: Pamela Dussault
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Experience the power of singing gospel music with more than 250 others as part of the Mystic Chorale, led by award-winning director and composer, Jonathan Singleton. Join Mystic as we prepare...

Cost: $105

Where:
First Parish Unitarian
630 Mass Ave.
Arlington , MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Mystic Chorale
Telephone: 781-738-1920
Contact Name: Jai Kaur Annamaria
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Change is what happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.” – Rav Berg, Spiritual Director, Kabbalah Centre Last year, you most likely set New...

Cost: Free

Where:
MGH at Charlestown Navy Yard
Building 114, Room D1
114 16th Street
Charlestown, MA  02129
View map »


Sponsor: Kabbalah Center
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is integrating into treatment plans. By...

Cost: $12-$17 per class

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Ceneter
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come hear Steven, M. Buggy, Corey and Scotty share their healing experiences with addiction and entheogens. Donation: $5 (We won’t turn you away if you can’t afford to pay.)...

Cost: $5

Where:
Make Shift
549 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA  02118
View map »


Sponsor: It’s a Bob World
Telephone: 617-752-2481
Contact Name: Bob Cohen

More information

6 Week Series with Sherri Snyder-Roche Start your year with greater awareness. In Kundalini Yoga, we harness the mental, physical, and nervous energies of the body and put them under the...

Cost: $90

Where:
State of Grace Yoga and Wellness Center
104 East Hartford Ave.
Uxbridge, MA  01569
View map »


Telephone: 508-278-2818
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Removing limiting beliefs and shaping your future with Julie Rost and Tracey Miller The new year brings forth a natural and truly beautiful human desire to seek more from life. But resolutions...

Cost: $150 (includes lunch)

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-969-8968
Contact Name: Brian Serven
Website »

More information

Reiki is a gentle energy healing method from Japan that anyone can learn. Reiki 1 is the basic Reiki attunement that allows people to work on family members, pets, plants and more. During class...

Cost: $150

Where:
Perfect Fit Pilates and Stretch
85 Main Street
Hopkinton, MA  01748
View map »


Sponsor: Elder Grove Shamanic Healing
Telephone: 774-232-2343
Contact Name: Deb Fate-Mental
Website »

More information

Join Diane Lewis for a very special author event! Diane will be introducing her new book From Psychic to Soul. From Psychic to Soul is a reveal of how every person is psychic. How we already,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
1 Worcester Road
Framingham, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Barnes & Noble
Telephone: 617-645-6415
Contact Name: Diane Lewis
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags