We all gotta go sometime, and when I go, I don’t want my body’s last moments on earth to be any more damaging than necessary. I like to think of myself as pretty green and in my death I want to go green too. Each year, about 50 million of us human types die. The environmental impact of this is huge; clearing land for graveyards, digging graves, cutting trees for coffins, lining coffins with unnatural fabrics, preserving the dead with poisonous embalming fluids, and concrete crypts.
Thanks to the environmental movement there are now a number of resources available to help you plan for your green goodbyes and to help you plan a dignified and environmentally responsible goodbye for your loved ones. There are even a few green cemeteries that have popped up in and some funeral homes that are willing to help you plan green funerals.
Embalming bodies, coffins made of scarce hardwood, and concrete crypts are meant to keep our bodies from natural decomposition. You may have thought of this and instead planned to have your body put right into the earth under your favorite tree. You should, however, keep in mind that most states have highly restrictive laws against this and mandate coffins, crypts, special burial plots, etc. for our dead bodies. Cremation therefore becomes an important option and is becoming more and more favored. While burning causes pollution and burning bodies, especially those with filled embalming fluid is even worse, today’s cremations are much less polluting than those of the past, leaving this as an excellent option. Or, for those who just don’t feel like going up in smoke, why not just skip the embalming and have a simple, closed casket and a quick burial?
Coffins are usually made from our most precious hardwood trees. Fortunately, you can find alternatives made of cardboard for quickest decomposition or from bamboo, jute or even those made from locally harvested soft woods. A shroud or biodegradable urns will bring you or your loved one into natural composition even faster.
Many people want to be able to visit a site to remember their loved ones. Rather than headstones that are made from destructive land practices or marble mausoleums that scar the earth for ages, you can plant some trees or bushes for these purposes or you can create living memorials such as those noted on a website of the national Forest Service. Sending flowers that are usually grown in pesticide laden sweatshops in developing nations is out of the question for environmentally concerned individuals but asking mourners to send gifts to a favored environmental or social action organization is an excellent alternative. If a grave is to be dug, having mourners plant native wildflowers there will be a lasting way to help the environment.
The not-for-profit Green Burial Council and other organizations are helping people to make all of these arrangements easier and helping consumers understand sustainable burial and cremation practices, locations and companies and more. In New York, Greensprings Natural Cemetery, in our Finger Lakes area, combines burial sites with land preservation efforts.
It may seem early to think about your own ending or the ending of those you love, but it is always easier to think and plan ahead. You should be sure to put in your will your desire to have a green funeral and be as specific as you want. Also, Contact the Memorial Society of the Hudson Mohawk Region, 405 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12206, (518) 465-9664. For a token membership fee, you will get lots of great materials on how to prepare in advance and how to ensure that you are not taken advantage of by greedy merchants when you face your most difficult time. Even when we come to our end, we can still do our best to protect the planet for our future generations.
Paul Tick in a long time activist in making the World a better place to live for all of us. He founded and manges the Delmar Farmers Market, a better place to shop for your local food and crafts. He can be reached via email through our Members listing.