Natural Burial


by Nora Cedarwind Young
(First published in www.agingdeliberately.com.)

The Green Burial Movement is stirring in this country. Consumers are choosing green for our final act and to help the planet. The goal is what we have practiced for centuries, to allow the body at death to rejoin the elements that gave it birth, to use what remains of a life to regenerate a new life.

Until the modern era, our formaldehyde-free bodies were laid in the ground, serving as nutrition to the earth. Embalming, often unnecessary, and not required in any state under most circumstances, metal or hardwood caskets and steel reinforced concrete grave liners are options people are choosing to go without. Ask yourself; is it necessary to place your casket into a concrete and steel reinforced lined grave, simply for easy maintenance?

Today, the United Kingdom and Australia together host over 200 natural burial locations; in the US we have twenty. Every year in the United States 22,500 cemeteries bury:

  • 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid (including formaldehyde)
  • 104,272 tons of steel for caskets and vaults, enough to build another Golden Gate Bridge!
  • 2,700 tons of copper and bronze for more caskets
  • 30 plus million board feet of hardwoods
  • 1,636,000 tons of concrete . . .

For a Natural Burial you can choose all or any part of the following:

  • A clean, unembalmed body
  • A biodegradable container such as a plain pine box or natural fiber shroud.
  • A vault free grave.

Some providers have restrictions such as no synthetic materials, jewelry or buttons. Some allow headstones; others reveal no trace a burial site exists. Global Positioning Satellites can allow us to have marker free graves, and yet to be able to precisely locate and visit our loved ones. Even if you are buried in a conventional cemetery and choose any part of natural burial, you lessen the ecological footprint for the planet.

  • Avoid synthetic and non-natural materials in your container and clothing
  • Choose biodegradable or recycled materials, wicker, sea grass and woods like pine for caskets
  • Choose non-virgin, organic materials and sustainable production, supporting local family business, handcrafting, and artisans.
  • Support burial goods with organic, fair trade, and eco-certifications.
  • Talk to your local cemetery provider; tell them you want Green and Natural Burial options.

Conservation Burial is a movement to protect and re-nourish land held in perpetual endowment across the country. Imagine, 20 acres of open space and natural habitat can facilitate 8,000 bodies. Earth to earth, we can heal the planet and make a greener choice in our final act. Choosing natural burial is a way of working together and embracing the transformation of an industry and the reclamation of a lost, practical and ancient practice. Returning our bodies to nature after we die honors the Earth, the deceased and the families and friends that love them both.

In Washington State, we are fortunate to have two options for Green Burial. Other community resources are considering this change, so let them know you want Green Burial available in your community. Kudos to both Moles Funeral Home in Ferndale who have dedicated four acres for Natural Burial called The Meadow. White Eagle Preserve in Goldendale is a perfect model for Conservation Burial. www.molesfuneralhome.com and www.naturalburialground.com

For a complete list of Green Burial sites in the US, go to www.thresholdsoflife.org

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