Resurrection of ‘eco-burials’

“Mourners pay their respects at an eco-funeral in the UK” [Photo courtesy of Westall Park Natural Burial Ground] Source: Al Jazeera English
Green goodbyes: The growth of eco-burials,” is featured on Al Jazeera website.

I’ve been interested to know what an ‘eco-burial’ is since I heard about them a few years ago.  The key to them is simplicity, no embalming fluid is used and loved one is buried in a simple, biodegradable box at a shallow depth, instead of 6-feet under. Remains are thus recycled, returned to dust.  I once witnessed a natural burial of this sort.  I helped dig and we sang songs and remembered the life of the one who had passed in the cold, open air atop a hill.

Note to self: This is how I’d like to be buried.  Alternatively, if the Body Farm can use my remains for decomposition research, that would be fine. No metal casket, formaldehyde nor viewing memorial is desired.  Instead, I’d like native flowers to grow.  This might add a star to my Akashic record, or Book of Life, in Biblical terms.

Sonia Elks writes about the rise in popularity of ‘eco-burials’:

In funeral showrooms across the US, salesman push grieving families towards the heavy, polished metal caskets used in more than 60 percent of burials in the country.

Two million of these caskets are buried each year in the US alone – enough to rebuild the Golden Gate bridge, according to the Green Burial Council.[Emphasis mine]

Families are also encouraged to have their loved ones filled with carcinogenic embalming fluid to briefly delay decomposition, and to protect the coffin with an underground vault made of concrete.

Cremations, which are often thought of as a more environmentally friendly option, use huge amounts of energy and release toxins collected in the body into the atmosphere, along with significant amounts of mercury from tooth fillings.

It all adds up to a huge ecological expense – and it is not cheap either, with the average American adult’s funeral cost running to an average of $10,000.

Elks calls the ‘eco-burial’ a ‘new rite’.  She describes them below:

Though there is no official definition of a “green burial”, it’s generally agreed to be one in which the deceased is not embalmed and is buried using only renewable and biodegradable materials.

Bodies are usually buried closer to the surface than the traditional six feet under, so as to allow the decomposing organic material to nourish the top layer of soil, from which plants feed.

Many green burial advocates also argue that graves should be marked with a plant or tree, instead of a stone memorial, and that the cemetery should be managed as a nature reserve instead of a manicured garden.

Green burials are still a minority pursuit, accounting for only around one percent of funerals in both the US and UK – but they are growing in popularity.

There are now more than 200 green burial sites in the UK, and the United States has around 150, as compared with just a handful a decade ago.

Elks includes testimonies from people who have buried family members using these simple techniques.  Many reasons are cited for the decision to implement the new/old burial practice, from financial, to ethical and spiritual ones.  Read the full article, click here.

Exert taken from Shakespeare Sonnet 73 on Death:

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.


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