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Archive for July 13, 2012

Environmentally-Friendly Funeral Planning

Environmentally-Friendly Funeral Planning

Despite being part of the natural celebration of the cycle of life and death,  most modern variations on traditional funeral practices are far from  environmentally-friendly.

A burial generally involves a casket made out of wood taken from forests  (most of which are not sustainable), and a body that has been embalmed using  chemicals such as formaldehyde—a dangerous carcinogen.

While commonly thought to be less environmentally disruptive than a full-on  burial, the process of cremation can also damage the environment by releasing a  slew of hazardous gasses into the atmosphere, including: mercury, dioxin and  carbon dioxide.

And those are just the environmental expenses.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average price of  an adult funeral in 2009 was $6,560—more than nine times what it cost to bury  someone in 1960.

This dramatic cost increase could be part of the reason why increasing  numbers of older adults are looking into the possibility of a more down-to-earth  burial ritual.

Preserving the green in your garden and your pocket

The so-called “Green funeral” offers an alternative for those who want to avoid squashing the environment and their family with an elephant-sized carbon and financial footprint. As its name suggests, a green funeral is about honoring a loved one while preserving the environment.

The typical green funeral involves burying an un-embalmed body in a biodegradable casket or cloth shroud. The grave site is generally marked with either a tree or a naturally-hewn stone. Some cemeteries have even taken to burying GPS devices with a body to help pin point its location without using a visible marker.

Green cemeteries specialize in providing naturally-sustainable environments where a person’s remains can exist in harmony with the surrounding environment. The lawn of a green cemetery is not meticulously manicured, but allowed to grow as it normally would. Vaults are avoided, and bodies are buried in a way that prevents the ground from settling or sinking.

Here are a few tips to help get you started planning a green funeral:

1. Know your options: Some cemeteries and funeral homes have  gone totally green. But that doesn’t mean that a regular funeral home or  cemetery doesn’t offer environmentally-friendly burial options. Cemeteries may  offer both types of burials, having set aside a portion of land to be used for  green funerals. A traditional funeral home may also have green burial options.  Be sure to do research and vet your options before deciding on the option that  is right for you.

2. Avoid embalming: Embalming is not required by law and is  frowned upon in green funerals. Some funeral homes offer embalming services that  do not use formaldehyde or  other hazardous chemicals, opting instead for environmentally-friendly  alternatives. If you’re considering being buried in a green cemetery, but still  want to have an embalming performed, check to see if the cemetery will allow a  body to be preserved using “green” practices.

3. Buy biodegradable or rent a casket: A  variety of biodegradable burial container options exist. Biodegradable caskets  and urns can be made out of pine, willow, bamboo, recycled paper, and cardboard,  among other materials. There’s also the option of renting a casket. If you chose  to do this, the casket you pick will be lined with another container (generally  made out of dense cardboard). The body will be displayed in the rental casket on  the liner during the memorial service, after which the body will be removed and  either buried in the liner or cremated.

4. Ashes to ashes (or reefs, or trees): For the  environmentally conscious, being cremated can offer up a host of interesting  possibilities. Ashes can be combined with concrete and molded into artificial  reef habitats for fish and other marine life. They can also be mixed in with  soil and used to nourish a memorial garden or tree.

Environmentally-friendly funerals have the potential to save  the environment and your wallet at the same time. Even so, a green funeral  won’t be the ideal choice for everyone.

If you’re not sure whether you should go the environmentally-conscious route,  thoroughly examine and compare the costs and offerings of different types of  funeral options before deciding how you want to preserve your legacy.

By Anne-Marie Botek, Editor, provides online  caregiver support by connecting people caring for elderly parents to other  caregivers, elder care experts, personalized information, and local resources. has become the trusted resource for exchanging ideas, sharing  conversations and finding credible information for those seeking elder care  solutions.

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