I am a Tombstone Tourist: someone who loves to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting a museum: an opportunity to enjoy rarely seen sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture, all in a tranquil outdoor setting. This blog is about cemetery culture, art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper. Care to join me? Read on...
Friday, April 22, 2016
Looking For The Green Reaper
love roaming cemeteries, but I’ll admit it is disheartening to realize how “un-green” a burial can be. In honor of Earth
Day, which is today, we’ll take a brief look at some of the more
environmentally friendly options available when you finally “slip
the surly bonds of earth" for good.
Not Your Grandparents Funerals
Embalming During the Civil War
the Civil War, embalming was used so that a soldier’s remains could be sent
back to the family, when possible. In the coming years, embalming became
accepted as experts touted the therapeutic advantages of having an open coffin, allowing the family more time to “say good-bye.”
modern embalming assures the family a few days to hold a visitation and
funeral for the deceased without purification setting in. But is it necessary?
Not really! Embalming is required by law only in cases when death has occurred
due to certain contagious diseases, or if the body must be transported a long
distance. So what are the environmental effects of death on our planet?
to Seven Ponds, a group that promotes
harmony with the environment, even in death, “Adverse environmental effects of embalming fluids leaching into the
ground following a body’s burial have yet to be adequately established, but
over 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid are introduced into U.S. soil every
year through burial, sometimes disconcertingly close to animal and plant life.“
What Are Greener Options?
are several alternatives including cremation, natural burial, and a “green” funeral. Here’s
a quick breakdown on each.
is on the rise, thanks to Baby Boomers looking for more economical burial
methods, and willing to take a stand for the environment. The National
Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) predicted that the rate of cremation would
exceed that of burial by 3% for 2015. By 2025, it is predicted that 56% of
Americans will choose cremation. This change is also due, in part, to many religious
faiths that now embrace cremation, where once it was discouraged.
cremation also has its drawbacks, mainly due to carbon emissions. One cremation
produces the same carbon emissions as driving a car 500 miles. To counter this,
request a casket that is made ofwicker
or recycled cardboard. Or consider having the body placed in a shroud of
request that any medical parts be removed and recycled, if possible. (Pacemakers
and prosthetic limbs are both recyclable.) Tooth fillings should also be
removed before cremation because they can create toxic mercury emissions.
the body has been cremated, (remember cremation is a process), the cremains
should have a final resting place designated. Cremains may be buried or placed
in a columbarium, (Consider a biodegradable urn.) The cremains may be scattered
in a special location (Launched into space, and placed on coral reefs are just
two options.), or returned in an urn or box to the family.
might also consider making a contribution to Carbon Fund, as a way to offset your
A natural burial is when the body is buried without any chemical preservatives such as embalming
fluid. A shroud may be used to wrap the body, or it may be placed in a
biodegradable coffin made of organic material such as bamboo, recycled
cardboard or recycled newspaper. No concrete vault is used; the body is placed
directing in the earth. GPS may be used to locate the burial plots; the goal is
to preserve nature as it is, and to sustain natural plants and wildlife in the
Cemeteries started to really catch on with the eco-conscious at the beginning of the
21st century. (The first green cemetery was created in 1993 in
England at Carlisle Cemetery.) These green graveyards are natural settings
filled with plants, native grasses and flowers, trees and bushes. Monuments and
tombstones are not allowed but natural rocks and trees are usually permitted to
mark the grave.
traditional cemeteries now offer special sections where green burials are held.
And remember, a green cemetery will not use any pesticides, herbicides or
green funeraladvocates the phrase,
“ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” A
green funeral may include any or all of these elements: no embalming, or
embalming with formaldehyde-free products, use of a biodegradable shroud and/or
coffin, burial in a natural setting or in a cemetery without the use of a
vault. Recycled paper products such as memorial cards and programs may be used,
along with locally grown flowers and plants for the service and grave.
of us can work to reduce our carbon footprint during our lives. And, yes, we
can also continue to do good, and honor the environment, after we’re gone …