Choosing Green Burial

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Green burial isn’t a new topic on The Good Human, but there have been a few new options introduced in recent years, so we thought it was time for a refresher.

As David Quilty wrote in 2008, according to National Geographic, each year, along with our loved ones, United States cemeteries bury 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid.

Even though green burial methods have been used throughout much of the United States’ history and throughout the entire world, there’s a lot of misinformation surrounding our options for green burials. Many people believe embalming is required by law and therefore, their individual desires for green burial options are severely limited. Luckily, that’s not the case.

According to green burial education, advocacy, and conservation nonprofit Green Burial Pittsburgh, except in cases of very rare diseases, such as cholera, there is nothing in federal, state or local law that requires embalming, caskets, grave markers, burial vaults or grave liners. (However, some funeral directors and cemetery operators may imply that these items are required by law, because sales of these services increases their profits.) In addition, burial vaults and liners reduce land settling on grave sites and, thus, make it easier to mow the grass, so traditional cemeteries may require them for this reason. Unembalmed bodies must be buried within 24-hours or be refrigerated, but certified green funeral homes provide refrigeration services.

There are numerous options available for green burials these days – from the ordinary, like biodegradable burial vessels made from recycled and natural materials – to the extraordinary, like having your cremains incorporated into artificial coral reefs to become habitats for fish and other sea creatures.

Bios Urn
Bios Urn

Another company is setting out to convert cemeteries into forests with biodegradable urns that use cremains to nourish tree seeds. Bios Urn is a creation of the design studio Estudimoline, which believes design and nature can change the world. The product’s website claims the urn provides proper germination and later growth of the tree, thereby transforming death through the return to life by means of nature.

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