Even Death Isn’t Zero Impact.

The Elephant Ecosystem

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The Lion King made it seem so simple. Someone dies, their body decomposes. Plants grow on the newly fertilized soil. Simba defeats his evil plotting uncle and Elton John sings while rain replenishes the Serengeti Plains. But no, we humans need to stick our opposable thumbs into everything, even the circle of life.

Each year, Americans bury nearly a million gallons of chemical embalming fluids along with our dead. Every ten acres of cemetery land contains almost a thousand tons of steel caskets, 20,000 tons of concrete vaults and enough casket wood to build more than 40 homes. Plus, chemical lawncare sprays tons of pesticides and herbicides onto miles of irrigated, plush lawns. Instead of returning our dead to the land, we’re killing the earth in our effort to remember them.

Enter the Green Burial Conference, coming to Boulder this October. Natural Transitions, the sponsoring organization, provides resources for eco-friendly burials (did you know that in Colorado, you can file a death certificate and bury your own dead without the help of a funeral home?). Their home funeral guides also help to plan ceremonies and make arrangements, leaving the family members more space and time to grieve.

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

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anonymous Jul 31, 2014 4:27am

A step, not only in the right direction, but all the way in is named Promession. Maybe you could read some more on internet about this viable Circle of Life burial option.
Peter Masak

anonymous Sep 28, 2012 3:51pm

[…] For more green burial. […]

anonymous Aug 15, 2008 10:01am

[…] we also begin to recognize the effects our dying. I came across this brief (and nostalgia-inducing) post about eco-burials and was inspired to contemplate the greening of our attitudes toward death. The […]

anonymous Aug 13, 2008 8:49am

There’s a product out there called the Eco Pod, a…well, pod-shaped casket made from paper. While still a thing to be manufactured, shipped, and bought, the Eco Pod (and other green caskets) are a step in the right direction. Maybe if we attempted to unravel our fear of and discomfort with death, we wouldn’t want to make it conform to our ideas of what’s acceptable and comforting.

Lindsey Wolf Aug 12, 2008 11:19am

You have no idea how many times I’ve thought of the Circle of Life in the Lion King while pondering death (I can’t believe I just publically admitted that)! It made those predator and prey sequences in “Planet Earth” easier for me to handle. Thanks for bringing a bit of truth on human death and how unnatural this natural process has become.

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Merete Mueller

Merete is a writer and filmmaker, and was once-upon-a-time the Managing Editor of elephant journal’s print incarnation, from 2006-2008. Today, you can find her on Twitter @meretemueller and on her blog To The Bones. Her first documentary, “TINY: A Story About Living Small”, about people who have downsized their lives into homes the size of a parking space, premiered at SXSW in March 2013.