Into the Great Green Beyond
At the end of an eco-conscious life, there is a final choice a person can make to limit his or her impact on the planet: a green funeral.
“Consumers might live green, but they don’t think about dying green,” said Darren Crouch, president of Passages International, with offices in Albuquerque, N.M., and Berkshire, England, which supplies funeral homes with environmentally friendly caskets and urns. “They don’t know that they can green their funeral.”
Of the more than 2.4 million deaths per year in the United States, roughly 70 percent of the newly departed are interred in traditional caskets — that is, wood, steel or even copper caskets, many of which are then encased in slabs of reinforced concrete to prevent the weight of the earth from causing them to collapse. For those who go the casket route, embalming with toxic chemicals like formaldehyde remains common.
As a result, the environmental footprint of the dead is a heavy one. Every year, cemeteries across the nation bury approximately 30 million board feet of hardwood, 104,000 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze and 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, according to statistics gathered by environmental groups and advocates for green burial.
For those inclined toward a green funeral for themselves or a loved one, there are several options. One is cremation and burial in a biodegradable urn. Caskets made from renewable materials are also becoming popular; when the actress Lynn Redgrave passed away recently, for instance, she was buried not in a traditional hardwood casket, but in one made from bamboo.
And in England, there is a growing trend toward so-called woodland burials, in which bodies are buried not in regimented plots but in fields and forests, allowing the remains to quickly return to nature.
Green caskets and eco-friendly burial options remain somewhat rare in the United States, so planning ahead is a good move, proponents say. One useful resource is the nonprofit Green Burial Council.
“There are greener alternatives within the funeral industry,” Mr. Crouch said. “But when someone dies, you don’t have much time to research your options."
LINK - NYT: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/30/into-the-big-green-beyond/
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