Green Burial

The green movement is spreading to cemeteries as more green burial options become available

By Leah Kaminsky

If there’s one infallible truth in life, it’s that we’re all going to die some day. Yet, rather than facing up to this fact, we’ve developed whole industries to prolong the illusion of youth and life, from plastic surgery to marble caskets and embalming procedures that keep us looking good and as far away from decomposition as possible.

Unfortunately, this denial of death is pretty bad for the earth. Embalming fluid contains carcinogens, which can leak into the soil. Coffins made from hardwoods and metals needs to be transported across great distances, increasing carbon emissions, and most also leak toxic lacquers. Cemeteries require a lot of upkeep to maintain, including the use of fertilizers and pesticides. What’s more, it’s difficult to sustain a practice that prevents biodegradation.

But before you get too depressed (as if talking about death wasn’t enough), know that there are a few green burial options that are becoming increasingly popular. Embalming fluid can be replaced with non-toxic refrigeration or dry ice, which will be sufficient for keeping the deceased presentable through the viewing. There are also a number of companies supplying eco-caskets made from sustainably sourced woods or woven from natural fabrics like cotton, silk or linen. For the truly eco-obsessed, there are also wicker and cardboard options, as well newspaper-based biodegradable kayak-shaped caskets called Ecopods.

As the green movement spreads, there are more green cemeteries stepping up to the fill the void. Green cemeteries use flat stones or native trees as grave markers, or eschew the physical marker altogether with GPS technology. Some even restore the land to what it used to be. There is even a Green Burial Council to monitor it all.

So, how do you want to be buried? It might not be the most inspiring question, but the answers sure are interesting.