Category Archives: conservation & environment

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.

Oh, this isn’t good

Arctic ice-cap melting faster than anyone predicted

This whole climate change really has me freaked out and sad and just feeling so impotent.  So often it feels like the changes that could make any sort of difference are so expensive and lofty and I just don’t want it to all be so hard!

I came across an article that sums up pretty well the feelings.  Basically, there’s a grief process that goes along with accepting climate change.  I feel like I’m right in the middle of it.

But I’m trying, I really am.  We bought reusable grocery bags for shopping, and we buy biodegradable pooper-scooper bags for cleaning up after Bailey, our golden retriever.  Frank’s next car will nearly certainly be a hybrid, assuming we can put off buying a different car for him for at least a couple years and can find a good deal on a used one.

But reading that whole arctic ice-cap thing has me really bummed, especially because I love polar bears.  Who wouldn’t love polar bears?!?  They are fluffy and cute and they could rip your heart out with one swipe of a paw.  They are magnificent.

As you may or may not be aware, polar bears need ice.  Without the Arctic Ocean all frozen and stuff, their hunting territory shrinks.  They cannot hunt.  And they die.

So I am left to wonder — what can I do, TOMORROW, to help the polar bears?  Something small, something fairly effortless, something tangible but without hardship?  Let’s see.  I know, I’ll lower my thermostat.  It’s chilly in these parts, but surely I can survive with my house’s thermostat at 66 tomorrow instead of 68.  If we get cold, we own sweaters.  And I was thinking of going to the mall anyway, as it is the last day of Old Navy’s killer post-holiday 75% off clearance sale, so if we go, I will be sure to lower the thermostat all the way down to 60.

I know it’s small.  I wish it could be bigger.  But I am but one person and for tomorrow, this is my best.