November 11, 2014

Eco-Friendly Options for a Responsible Burial.

death gravestone cross

Not many of us I surmise—over a cup of coffee with a friend let’s say—like to discuss the eventual disposal/interment of our human remains.

It’s almost a taboo subject. Well a few years ago I was having this conversation with folks on a daily basis; I was a professional funeral director/arrangement counselor at a large mortuary in South San Francisco.

One of the aspects of this profession I used find particularly discomfiting was, following the conclusion of the arrangement itself, I would lead the bereaved family into the Casket/Urn Display Room to give my best ‘sales pitch’ spiel on the array of products there: everything from simple cloth covered caskets (for the cash-strapped families) to rich mahogany, maple woods, and the ‘Cadillac’ of all caskets—the ornate, real-gold-plated bronze casket (for those with that kind of dosh to spare).

And then, when families had spent a ton of money at the mortuary, the next visit (for some) was to the cemetery, where ‘cemetery counselors’ would offer them expensive plots, grave liners, and vaults.

Why I would wonder—this egregious expense? And unearth-friendly ways of disposing of human remains? Not good for the earth and not easy on the pocket. Aren’t there (if you feel so inspired) simple, inexpensive, and eco-sustainable ways to dispose (with dignity) of our human remains?

Yes. And the options are basically threefold:

1. Direct Cremation: Here the human remains are cremated; the cremated remains are subsequently placed in a temporary plastic urn and given to the family—who may then choose and purchase a permanent urn for their storage or simply decide (depending on state laws) to scatter or inter them.

2. The purchase of a Biodegradable Urn (made from organic and recycled materials) which may then be placed in water or the earth without any contamination to either.

3. The purchase of a Biodegradable Casket which, like the biodegradable urn, may be interred in an eco-friendly, sustainable manner.

In the news recently, Brittany Maynard sparked a national debate on physician-assisted dying. I commend the noble integrity and dignity of her spirit; and how she chose to depart from this life.

My intention in this article is to similarly inspire a more widespread discussion (even over coffee!) on how we, as an enlightened 21st century society, dispose (with dignity and eco-responsibility) of our human remains. And I do this with the utmost respect and sensitivity to those who have spent—or will spend—whatever amount of their choosing on this ancient ritual of interment.

As for me at my final demise? Say a wee prayer of remembrance; place me au natural in the earth as human compost until every last molecule of me has been recycled. And meanwhile go party in my honor—and go easy on the lemonade!



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Author: Gerard Murphy

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Jes at Flickr 


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