Green living doesn't have to end with death. For the eco-conscious, there are an increasing number of options that allow you to continue helping the environment from beyond the grave. As Earth Day 2012 approaches on April 22, we look at a few of the trends in green burial and funerals.
PBS Newshour recently looked at the documentary "Dying Green" and the role of green burial in conservation. The documentary features Dr. Billy Campbell, who in 1998 opened Ramsey Creek Preserve, a land preserve that functions as a green cemetery.
This means no embalming fluids or chemical preservatives such as formaldehyde - a probable human carcinogen - are used, and the body is placed in a simple shroud, a biodegradable casket or urn, instead of one made of treated hardwood and metal. Plus, no pesticides are used to maintain the grounds, and grave markers are natural - composed of rocks or trees native to the environment.
Ramsey Creek provides a natural eternal resting place for those who are buried there. But, more importantly, by serving as a cemetery, the land will be protected from development and contamination for generations to come. A lovely place to be interred, and a lovely legacy to leave.
In Austin, Texas, Eloise Woods is a tranquil grove of pine and cedar and wildflowers. And it's a cemetery. Owner Ellen Macdonald, a neuroscientist, was inspired to go into the burial business after watching Six Feet Under. She named the burial ground for her nature-loving grandmother.
At last fall's National Funeral Directors Association International Convention and Expo, held in Chicago, green was a hot topic. According to the Chicago Tribune, green funerals "can include biodegradable caskets, organic or locally grown flowers, and burial without embalmment."
"As consumers, they make choices to live more environmentally friendly lifestyles, and they're also starting to look at ways that they can make their funerals 'green,'" said Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin-based National Funeral Directors Association.
As PBS notes, "green burials and cemeteries don't represent such a grand departure from current industry practices." "Cemeteries have always been green and facilitated green burials," says Robert Fells, executive director of the International Cemetery, Cremations & Funeral Association. "What we're seeing today, what the green burial grounds are promoting, is they're saying the remains cannot be embalmed. In the past [embalming] was the family's option, never a cemetery requirement."
For more on green burial and funeral trends, visit the Green Burial Council (GBC), a national information source for all types of natural burial, or How to Go Green Green: Funerals on Discovery's Treehugger.com.