D. Nelson wrote:Instead of feeding folks from the garden, you'd be feeding folks to the garden in the great cycle of life. Better than eating Soylent Green.....Soylent Green is People, for all you young'uns out there
Exactly! I truly feel the last heroic act of environmental responsibility we can take is to literally give ourselves to the planet by going out green.
I am quite interested in your book as I have joined the composting world a few years back and am loving what I am learning. I am a green mortician who buries people naturally and feel quite akin to what you are doing, albeit a different source.
I am very curious of your opinion of Human Composting, the process of the body covered in natural materials, like straw or wood chips, and over the course of about three to seven weeks, thanks to microbial activity, it will break down into soil. Is this on your radar at all?
Great forum. I am enjoying all these inquisitive minds. For those of you who are craving some basics, there are lots of ways to make a burial more environmentally friendly, but a few components are the most important for creating a true green burial.
Don’t Use a Decorative Casket
The typical casket used today is not made to be biodegradable; it’s made for preservation. Modern burial boxes are manufactured from reinforced steel or shellacked hardwoods, then embellished with metals, handles, and ornamentation. All that metal, lacquer, and toxic glue is certainly no good for the environment. If you decide you want a casket, opt for a basic wooden casket, like a plain pine box, or one made from other natural materials: bamboo, sea grass, banana leaves, and even willow branches. Earth-friendly caskets are fully biodegradable. They will break down to nothing, and they shouldn’t have any traces of metal, toxic glue, plastic, or varnish.
However, you don’t need to use a casket at all. A deceased person can easily be wrapped in a favorite non-bleached or dyed cloth, blanket, or tapestry, and several types of commercially made burial shrouds and wraps are now sold.
Don’t Use a Burial Vault or Grave Liner
A burial vault — also referred to as a grave box, casket liner, or outer burial container — is a container made from concrete or polypropylene, and it is used to surround the casket for maximum preservation and to prevent the grave from collapsing over time. Green cemeteries prohibit them entirely, and traditional cemeteries are beginning to forgo their obligatory inclusion. A green burial should be designed to allow the body to naturally return to the earth at the fastest rate possible. By not using a vault, the process happens much more quickly.
Embalming fluid contains formaldehyde, a likely carcinogen that is hazardous to the environment as well as to the embalmer. Forgoing standard embalming doesn’t necessarily mean that a funeral must happen more quickly: Alternatives do exist for preserving a body for a moderate period, such as “green embalming” techniques as well as good old-fashioned refrigeration and dry ice. If you are using a funeral home, they will be able to assist with standard refrigeration, but if you are handling the body yourself, you might need some instruction. However, don’t let the idea of an unpreserved body gross you out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes it clear that the average dead body is neither dangerous nor contagious. Our society has developed a number of myths and misconceptions about dead bodies that I hope my book will help dispel.
Use a Green Burial Site
Ideally, to ensure an eco-friendly burial, choose a fully natural burial ground whose sole purpose is eco-conservation. Another great choice is a hybrid or low-impact green cemetery, a burial area that has adopted environmental practices but also allows for traditional graves. Or, if the law allows and the land is available, consider a backyard burial. See chapter 6 for more on this. A backyard burial takes some extra planning, and some extra work, but it may be the greenest way to say goodbye.
Hi Beth! I suggest checking my book out from the library because some of that info will be there. All states have their own rules, so you will need to check with your county zoning and planning for the rest.
Ecopods are a natural burial chest that was designed by English midwife Hazel Selina. The “eco” part of the name refers to its composition — it’s made from both recycled newspapers and handmade mulberry paper, and is thus biodegradable. And the “pod” part...well, it looks like a giant seed pod. Ecopods are offered in a range of colors, including red with an Aztec sun design, but as of publication, they were temporarily out of production. The company is currently exploring different production options and hoping to partner with the Natural Burial Company in Eugene, Oregon.
Flowers can be a very large expense at funerals. A traditional casket blanket of flowers or a standing floral display can cost many hundreds of dollars. If you’re planning a funeral, some money-saving ideas include using artificial flowers or having potted plants rather than cut and arranged flowers. Or skip the flowers entirely. My favorite is succulents. I have seen lovely casket toppers that didn’t use flowers at all, such as surrounding a framed photograph of the departed loved one with a wreath made from branches, ribbons, and even a favorite clothing item. I’ve seen this done with a skateboard and tennis shoes, and a cowboy could be celebrated by displaying his hat, boots, and lead rope.
For ornamental flair and color, top the casket with a homemade or special blanket. For deceased military veterans, obtain a flag from their branch of service, and cover the casket with it. Before burial, this can be folded and presented to the next of kin.
Another reason to avoid cut flowers is that they have a high environmental cost. Not only are many cut flowers imported from other countries (all those plane flights involve lots of greenhouse-gas emissions), but they are also laden with pesticides and are carted around in energy-guzzling refrigerated trucks and display cases. If you are a guest at a funeral, choose another way to honor the deceased than by sending an expensive floral arrangement that will, in a few days, only become landfill.
TIP: If you are planning a funeral, ask mourners to make donations to a favorite charity in honor of the deceased rather than send floral tributes. Or ask others to plant a tree, and so honor the person’s life by fostering more life.
Tom - Would you be surprised to learn that if a family would like the gold fillings or the teeth back prior to a cremation or burial, either the family or a forensic dentist needs to retrieve the teeth? Funeral homes and cremator operators do not do this procedure, nor have I ever met one who physically has done it. Same goes for the forensic dentist. I have been in the funera industry 29 years and never once have been able to find a dentist who is willing to come in and take care of this for a family. I've called around to several funeral homes in the area and they, too, do not have anyone on file to call. So teeth end up getting burned or buried. They are truly the property of the family but there is a shortage on removal options.
Dave Mason wrote:Good morning and welcome.
We have an interest in offering our 50 acre Pacific ocean farm as a hu-composting RIP location, along the lines of Recompose of Washington.
We are waiting for Oregon to join Washington with legislative approval.
We would be excited to accept pre-interest gestures.
We have all the necessary facilities and a natural farm we intend to keep in native habitat.
Jeff - Regarding the hot composting, since the 18-day mark is what I have continually heard for most breakdowns, I would suspect the only departure for teeth and bones would be metals, filings, density, size, etc. Hard to give a for certain answer.
Mark - Thank you for the Mohave County structure. Again, this is really some progress!
Xisca - My green burial knowledge is most strong regarding U.S. rules and regulations.
Tom - What a grand story!
Mike - You will find vertical burial in places such as Malaysia and Australia, but not in the states.
It's certainly refreshing to hear about the zoning differences in the state of Arizona. I'm going to look into that as I would love to learn more. I'm very curious if this is adaptable to all counties, lot size, etc. How fascinating!
Hello to all of you, and thank you so much for being such a vibrant part of the permaculture community and conversation. Your insight to what we are trying to do here is so invaluable. I appreciate this thread and I appreciate the questions and comments. Please keep them coming!
Charles, the material medium of linen would be fantastic for a shroud or to wrap a body, and it is perfect because it is biodegradable, an inexpensive resource, and non bleached. If you need a few shroud diagrams with directions, I am happy to provide them.
Walt, your expertise, passion, and honesty is absolutely appreciated and shows throughout everything you do. I very much appreciate your support of my work, and I equally support you and all your ventures. If any of you are able to make it to the Washington area where Herland Forest resides, I highly recommend you getting ahold of Walt and making the trip to his
natural burial forest.
Great question. It cools in the shape of the form it's going to take. I would be successful shaping it around a large vegetable and once it is fully dried, I could simply eat the vegetable out of the urn!
Hi, Tyler. Thank you so much for your well-thought-out purpose, and for your very helpful comments for all who are reading. For those of you who are new to this thread, please make sure you double check to make sure private land burial in your specific state, as well as your specific county, is legal.
When my daughter was quite small, I noticed that all our dryer lint became bright and colorful. Her girly clothing left behind something magical, and I knew I should lay it out for birds to make nests or store it away as a fire starter on camping trips. Or maybe I could give it to my funeral families to organically wrap portions of their loved one’s cremains. So not dryer lint caskets, but urns.
In 2010, as the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day was approaching, I decided to see if I could fabricate cremation urns out of all the lint I had set aside. I soon realized I could scoop out the clingy bits of fiber and fluff and create sustainable art. A local artist friend, Marliese Franklin, and I sautéed the lint in water in a large saucepan, stirring well. Slowly adding flour, we cooked my dryer dust dregs over medium heat, rousing constantly until the mixture held together, forming peaks. We then poured it out onto several layers of newspaper to cool.
Dryer lint urns have two obvious advantages: They are environmentally friendly, as one would expect a biodegradable urn to be, and you can make them essentially for free. They are a natural demonstration of the cycle of life — we are born, we die, we replenish the Earth, and the cycle begins again — as well as a great option for anyone on a budget.
I gave away the urns I made for free to anyone in need who wanted one, and I encourage you to try making your own, using my simple recipe:
•3 cups dryer lint
•2 cups warm water
•1 cup flour
If you are considering a backyard burial, think carefully about what it may mean for the property itself and the person who owns it (which may be yourself). All other issues aside, burying someone on private land impacts the future sale of that property. In addition, however remote the concern may be, you should consider how you’d feel, and what you would do, if your deceased loved one resided on property that you no longer owned.
For instance, depending on the type of property, the land could become fundamentally unmarketable to succeeding buyers if the interred body isn’t relocated, and even then, a stigma might remain that makes selling the tract difficult. Not only that, exhuming and transferring a body is expensive. However, even if this isn’t done and the property is sold, family members and others won’t necessarily have access to the property to visit the gravesite anymore. Perhaps most unsettling of all, what if the land is sold and developed for a different use, one that rattles the bones in their resting place?
In light of these issues, reflect on all the possible outcomes before committing to creating a private burial ground on residentially zoned property. Further, don’t make this decision without legal guidance and consultation, and begin the planning process well in advance. It can involve a lot of paperwork.
But do not let these cautions discourage you if this is your dream or the final wishes of someone you love. I am truly finding that people are increasingly embracing the mindset of ashes to ashes and dust to dust, and many families I have served would not have done it any other way.
Hello, all. Thank you so kindly for your warm welcome. I am thrilled to provide any knowledge about anything I can regarding this subject, as well as anything you would like to ask a mortician as not everyone knows one and has the ability to gets their questions answered.
I know, have not witnessed a sky burial in person. A definitely most interesting and environmental concept!!
Working with wood is a joy for so many people. Here are some basic instructions from my casket maker:
How to Make a Natural Wood Casket
1. Use a shoebox as your scaled-down model for your finished casket. Mark it with measurements for all necessary cuts.
2. Carefully measure the person who will be in the casket. A standard casket is eighty inches long, twenty-eight inches wide, and twenty-three inches high (these are all external measurements), but you may need more or less wood to complete the job. Also find out what specific objects will be placed inside the casket so you can allow for extra room.
3. Use the wood you have on hand or have experience working with, but reclaimed wood is always a great choice. Avoid plywood, which is usually too thin for this project.
4. If you are making a rectangular casket, you can cut the base and lid at the same time, the sides at the same time, and the top and bottom at the same time. If you create a tapered design, cut the base and lid at the same time, and the top and bottom at the same time. For the sides, cut four separate pieces: two shorter pieces for the upper (tapered) side of the casket, and two longer pieces for the lower. Using screws, attach the walls to the base. Hinges can be used to attach the lid to the bottom half of the container. Then, one by one, remove the screws and add a wood dowel and seal the seams and screw holes with nontoxic wood glue.
5. Carefully measure the person who will be in the casket. A standard casket is eighty inches long, twenty-eight inches wide, and twenty-three inches high (these are all external measurements), but you may need more or less wood to complete the job. Also find out what specific objects will be placed inside the casket so you can allow for extra room.
6. Use the wood you have on hand or have experience working with, but reclaimed wood is always a great choice. Avoid plywood, which is usually too thin for this project.
7. If you are making a rectangular casket, you can cut the base and lid at the same time, the sides at the same time, and the top and bottom at the same time. If you create a tapered design, cut the base and lid at the same time, and the top and bottom at the same time. For the sides, cut four separate pieces: two shorter pieces for the upper (tapered) side of the casket, and two longer pieces for the lower. Using screws, attach the walls to the base. Hinges can be used to attach the lid to the bottom half of the container. Then, one by one, remove the screws and add a wood dowel and seal the seams and screw holes with nontoxic wood glue.
8. To create handles, use about 24 feet of strong rope or nylon cord, and drill holes along the sides of the casket, through which you will weave the rope. Drill three holes on the lower portion of each long side, and two holes on each end, top and bottom. Weave the rope or cord through these openings, which creates a secured grouping of six handles for attendants to carry the casket. Make sure to tie off the ends of the rope firmly (on the inside), and use nontoxic wood glue to secure the knots, if needed.
9. If you want a soft casket liner, sew this out of biodegradable silk or cotton (or hire an experienced seamstress to do this), and attach. You can also have your loved one lie on a soft comforter, sheet, non-synthetic pillows, or nothing at all.
Oregon law dictates each county can choose if private land burial is workable. I always suggest calling the specific county's Planning ad Zoning Dept (or ask the county to get you to the person best representing this function) and ask.
Wonderful to hear all your voices! There is so much discussion to be had. As a career mortician, I strongly advise you to do your own research and never feel you cannot ask all the questions you need. After all, your loved one who passed is your loved one. Take back your rights to care for your people as you see fit. webpage
Glad to see this thread. I am the author of The Green Burial Guidebook and love when people share my dream of green burials becoming the go-to choice for life’s last stop. I believe when we rebrand the narrative around death, one day “going green” will be considered the standard, and our last great heroic act of environmental volunteerism.