The recent passing of a loved one in my family has forced me to think about topics I normally don’t spend a lot of time on, like my death, dying and how I want my body disposed of once I am done with it.
Experiencing death is part of life, I know, yet it’s a subject most of us tend to avoid. Especially when it comes to writing our Will or planning our own funeral and burial.
Yet, I feel it would be neglectful and irresponsible of me not to take care of as much of this difficult task as I can before I die.
I certainly don’t want my family, especially my children to have to deal with anything more than what is absolutely necessary when the time comes.
Consequently, I have decided it is time to set my affairs in order. It’s not that I am having some premonition or anything, don’t worry kids, I plan on living a long life.
I just feel that it would be negligent of me to put off this delicate matter any longer.
So, one of the choices I have made is to be buried naturally!
Bury Me Naturally – What is a Green Burial?
A natural burial is a process by which the body of a deceased loved one is interred in the ground in a way that it is able to recycle naturally back to the Earth.
Characteristics of an eco-friendly burial include:
- No toxic chemicals used in the body preparation
- A biodegradable coffin or shroud is used
- Burial vaults are not used
- Graves are dug at a shallower depth allowing for faster decomposition
- The body can be buried on private land (state regulations apply) or in a “green” cemetery
Green Burial vs. Traditional Burials – What’s the Difference?
Most traditional burials involve the use of embalming fluid to preserve the body for family viewing.
Embalming fluid contains formaldehyde and its long-term effects on soil and water tables are still unclear. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and has been linked to a higher incidence of leukemia in funeral directors. (National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/formaldehyde)
In traditional burials, most coffins are composed mainly of steel and exotic or hard-to-find woods. The coffins or caskets are then sealed using formaldehyde glue.
Some coffins used in Europe are composed of chipboard and plastic.
According to Wikipedia:
- 30 million board feet of hardwoods (caskets)
- 90,272 tons of steel (caskets)
- 14,000 tons of steel (vaults)
- 2,700 tons of copper and bronze (caskets)
- 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete (vaults)
- 827,060 US gallons of embalming fluid, including formaldehyde
is buried in 22,500 cemeteries across the U.S. each year.
Many natural environments are being taken over by cemeteries where there are few trees, and herbicides are often used to maintain the lawns.
With a green burial, the deceased is buried in a natural environment where family members can plant trees and flowers to memorialize their loved ones final resting place.
Organic coffins or caskets are composed of biodegradable materials and/or materials that have been recycled. The family can even elect to have the body wrapped in a natural shroud.
The embalming fluid used in green burials is either naturally derived or composed of non-toxic materials.
The family may also choose to not have the body prepared at all.
The deceased is buried in a completely natural setting, in a shallower grave to allow for a faster and more effective decomposition.
Interestingly enough, natural burials are also very cost effective. Who would have thought?
What About Cremation?
Cremation is often chosen as an eco-friendly option. However, is it a viable green choice?
I thought it was until I learned that cremating a body releases dioxin, mercury, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. (http://www.greenburials.org)
Final Resting Place: Things to Think About
Those of us left behind had to decide on our own how to dispose of Bryan’s body. Did Bryan have his own ideas about how he would be interred? Well, if he did, we never knew what they were.
Here are some things I have decided to do, and perhaps these will help you consider what your final impact on the planet will be.
First and foremost, I need to assess my personal worth and compose a Will that will allow for my personal effects to go to the loved ones I have selected or to a favorite charity.
I haven’t decided if I want to do a Living Will or not. A Living Will leaves instructions for your family or caregiver on what your wishes are regarding life-prolonging medical treatment.
In either case, if you are like me and don’t have an attorney on retainer, you probably haven’t the first clue how to get started preparing either a Will or Living Will.
Here are some resources I have found:
LegalZoom.com – Has information on how to create a Last Will, a Living Trust, and a Living Will with explanations on what they cover.
U.S.LegalForms.com – Has state-specific legal documents that will instruct your loved ones on specific green burial guidelines if you live in one state, but will be interred in another.
After that, decide how you want your body disposed of. Do you want to be buried? Cremated and your ashes tossed at sea or to the four winds?
If you would like to consider a green burial, here is another resource you could use.
GreenBurialCouncil.org – is a non-profit organization that encourages the use of burial as a new means of protecting natural resources. Use them to find GBC approved funeral homes and cemeteries.
On a final note (no pun intended), I think it is also diligent to consider becoming an organ donor, if you aren’t already. It is easy to do. Simply have your driver’s license or Personal ID changed to indicate that you are an organ donor.
I am interested in your thoughts on green burials and perhaps your plans for a final resting place. I would also love your thoughts on living life to the fullest, which is something I want to do every day. Aloha