Green in the hereafter

Yesterday’s post also ties in nicely to another point about death planning I’ve been contemplating.  Many people are all about trying to be more green these days — recycling, driving hybrids, reducing one’s carbon footprint.  I do what I can, when I can, though I am no saint and surely could be doing more.  I touched yesterday on the ooginess I feel about embalming and being buried and how I’m not really down with all those chemicals.  Lo and behold, I just came across this CNN article that talks about the same topic.

I first became aware of the idea of green funerals watching the show Six Feet Under.  One of the characters dies, and her husband opts to bury her in green cemetary, where the bodies are interred without being embalmed and only wrapped in a gauzy shroud.  He dug the hole himself and placed her, and filled it in.  There was no marker for her grave, and I’m fuzzy if I’m getting this from the show or elsewhere but I think the only way he knew where she was buried was by GPS coordinates.  (And of course there was a whole other subplot around this, where the husband tricked the wife’s family into believing she was cremated, but he gave them the ashes of someone else.  Being he was a funeral director himself he had access to a cache of cremains never picked up by the families.  It was an odd, but riveting show.  Give it a gander sometime if you are into that sort of thing.)

Anyway, the CNN article quoted some eye-opening statistics about the resources ‘consumed’ by the death industry and buried in the ground.  Enough metal each year to build a Golden Gate Bridge!  Enough concrete to build a highway, each year, from New York City to Detroit!  Egads.  And that’s on top of the tons of toxic embalming chemicals that leech into the ground from decaying bodies and burned into the atmosphere through cremation.  It really gave me pause, and definitely reinforced my own minimalist desires for the disposal of my used-up body.

I hope for anyone reading these last two posts, you’ll take a couple things away from this:

1) Be open, as soon as possible, for what you wish for your body when you die, with whoever might be charged with that decision.  Include it in your will, even (though in a will only, it could be too late for the immediate arrangements that need to be made upon your death – it’s simply not adequate to ONLY have this information in your will).  You never ever know when those wishes might suddenly become relevant.  It may seem like a macabre and weird thing to discuss with your spouse or children or parents.  But for them, knowing your wishes and that they are following them will lift their burden and ease their stress, even just a little, at an otherwise very burdensome and stressful time in their lives.  You’re doing it for yourself, but you’re doing it for them, too.  I am so glad my mom shared those wishes with us, even if I rolled my eyes at her when she’d do it.

2) Research and consider greener funeral alternatives.  Your desire to leave the Earth a better place for your children shouldn’t stop with your last breath.  Try to make your last major imprint on the world in keeping with the way you lived, as much as you can tolerate from both a personal and religious perspective.


3 responses to “Green in the hereafter

  1. Those are some incredible facts about the waste in the death industry. (LOL at that term.)

    I want to be cremated. I never thought about it for “green” purposes though. I just don’t want to be buried and for my loved ones to feel obligated to go back to where I’m buried to pay their respects. That can be done in the heart.

    Good last couple of posts, Lisa. 🙂

  2. Thanks Lisa for some good thinking-on stuff.

    Cremation always appealed to me, but I learned after my cousin died that — at least in many states — you can’t just huck the body in an incinerator; no, it has to be IN something. And you can pay a LOT of money for that something, depending on your guilt level I guess. We paid $199 for the bare minimum, a “sturdy-sided container.”

    That would be your standard corrugated box, thanks.

    I hate funeral folk with a PASSION after that whole experience. Talk about getting slimed. And, treehugger or no, I hadn’t even considered the environmental impacts.

    Thanks for making me think.

  3. Agreed, good thought-provoking posts Lisa…

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