I've recently changed my mind about this whole death thing.
Not the talking about it or encouraging others to do the same, but personally what I want to happen after I go.
After doing some research for an upcoming project, I realized I was still stuck in a traditional mindset. I had decided on cremation long ago. Written it in my final wishes and considered it a done deal. Ashes would be spread in the ocean. A casket was not for me. When I had asked myself the question of burial options many years ago, these two standards seemed to be my only choices. It's whats typically talked about. Until recently. And really not that recently...I just hadn't thought about it in a greener way.
With the entire world going green in so many different ways (yeah, this is optimistic me stating what really should be the norm) and our growing technology and advances, I discovered there are a variety of green burial options I hadn't even considered.
What is a green burial?
The Green Burial Council (GBC) defines green burial as "a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat."
Things like biodegradable woods and shrouds are used in place of steel, copper, and bronze. Non-toxic solutions replace the formaldehyde-based chemicals of embalming and green cemeteries resembling a nature reserve are now filled with wandering trails of flowers and forestry in place of somber headstones.
Coffin options include those made from materials such as seagrass, wicker, and bamboo. Shrouds of cotton or linen are a simple and affordable way to go. Tree urns that grow a tree along with ashes are available as well as an option to incorporate cremains with an environmentally-safe cement mixture to become part of an eternal reef. And of course, the mushroom burial suit (Coeio's Infinity Burial Suit) - if you haven't heard of this one you are missing out. Check out the famous Ted Talk.
One option that stood out for me amongst the rest was a new one called aquamation. (Recently legalized in California - oddly not legal in all States) Also known as resomation or water cremation, this process doesn't release chemicals into the atmosphere and uses a lot less energy than traditional cremation. Using water flow, temperature, and alkalinity, aquamation mimics the natural process of decomposition and leaves behind only bone, which is then turned into ash. Being a life-long fan of water, this seemed like a more gentle way to say goodbye to the human vessel I will eventually leave behind.
Ah...but what to do with the ashes after that? Further research revealed a beautiful Himalayan Rock Salt Urn and whimsical Biodegradable Turtle Urn as optional carriers for gently dissolving and distributing my future resomation ash into the sea.
Discovering all these eco-friendly options and planning these details made me oddly excited about updating my final wishes document. I know my kids will thank me for not leaving the guesswork to them...or their kids...or their kids' kids. (I know. Again with the optimism...but I'm shooting for 100+ years here)
If you're like me, or rather, the before-I-wrote-this-article me, I think you might be pleasantly surprised breaking free from the traditional mindset and consider a greener option in your future. We're already out driving our electric cars, carrying reusable water bottles and recycling like crazy. Maybe it's time to consider going green in for our final exits.
For more info check out these sites:
GREEN BURIAL COUNCIL https://www.greenburialcouncil.org
TREE URNS https://www.thelivingurn.com
INFINITY SUIT http://coeio.com
ETERNAL REEFS https://www.eternalreefs.com
HIMALAYAN ROCK SALT/ BIODEGRADABLE TURTLE URNS https://www.passagesinternational.com/biodegradable-urns/water/turtle-urns/