A fun way to start the new year … no really! We love the Green Reaper, aka Elizabeth Fournier, and the discussion we had with her on green ways to die. Elizabeth Fournier is author and funeral director of Cornerstone Funeral Services in Boring Oregon [insert bad joke about Boring Oregon -- we keep trying to come up with one, but haven't succeeded in coming up with a funny one yet. If you have one, please comment here on the blog and we'll mention it on the air if it is any good!]. Who couldn’t love someone who wrote a book entitled, All Men are Cremated Equal: My 77 Blind Dates.
Elizabeth talked about some of the latest techniques in eco-friendly funerals, some of which will take some rethinking for people to get comfortable with. We had a hard time hearing about the details of Bio Cremation, which is an earth-friendly liquid cremation.
There was a lot of great information and I highly recommend listening to the show and to our feature interview with the Green Reaper especially …
Consider the Environmental Impact of Burial and Cremation
In the United States every year, along with our dead bodies, we bury …
- over 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid (which contains formaldehyde – a known carcinogen)
- 1.5 million tons of steel reinforced concrete vaults
- 30 million board feet of hardwood caskets and coffins
- about 100,000 tons of steel caskets
- about 3,000 tons of copper and bronze caskets
Cremation is not always a great environmental alternative …
- the energy it takes to cremate a body is equivalent to driving 4800 miles!
- the UN estimates that crematoriums contribute up to 0.2% of the annual global emission
- cremation adds to heavy metal particulate in air pollution, including mercury
7 Ways to Love the Earth After Death
1. Communicate - No one loves the idea of pondering their own or someone they love’s death, but it is a reality we will all have to deal with one way or another. If you are concerned about the environment and have made an effort to lower your carbon footprint and lead a greener life, why not minimize your environmental impact on your way out, leaving more sustainable legacy in the end? Share your thoughts with your family and friends, and once you are clear about what you want, make sure to write it down. The Green Burial Council is a great place to start. Also the Green Reaper has a good Green Burial resource page.
2. Consider Bio Cremation - Ok. The description is a little uncomfortable to think about (hence our blech faces in the image above), but it is an extremely eco-friendly way to dispose of our bodies and offer them back to the earth. Here’s how it is described on the Bio Cremation website: The body is placed in a stainless steel cremation chamber where water (95%), an alkali additive (5%), heat and pressure are added. BIO Cremation uses this combination of water, alkali, heat and pressure to perform the cremation, gently reducing the body to bone fragments and a sterile solution that is recycled to the earth.
3. Become a Marine Habitat - Yup. If you do some type of cremation, you can consider helping the ocean’s eco-system by becoming part of a reef! Eternal Reefs creates reef balls that incorporate cremated remains that are helping struggling marine environments on our shore lines. They offer plaques and a variety of services to memorialize and ritualize the commencement of the individual reef ball.
4. Get Freeze Dried - Promession is a process that involves freezing the body in liquid nitrogen, vibrating it to create a powder, then removing the toxic metals. It is thought to produce a highly beneficial human “compost” that can be easily buried along with a tree or plant that will be highly nourished. This is a fairly new process, but a promising earth-friendly one. Here’s a good article that explains promession pretty well.
5. Wrap it Up - Depending on the laws and regulations in the state (or country) you live in, there are a variety of really interesting and sustainable ways to either wrap ourselves in cloth, coffins or caskets made form recycled paper products, or even urns for cremation remains made of upcycled dryer lint! You can get pretty creative to accommodate and honor the personality of the individual.
6. Make it a Green Goodbye Party - Try to find a funeral director and spiritual officiants who are in alignment with your environmental wishes and can help create a personalized, natural and meaningful service. And if you are inclined (and I and my people would be), make a wonderful celebration that include all the elements of a great eco-friendly party (cloth napkins or recycled paper products; locally produced, organic and fresh nourishing food; ditch the water bottles; make sure to use as many recyclable items as possible; etc.)
7. Keep on Giving - If you have the means, perhaps also consider leaving some portion of our estate to your favorite environmental charities.
sources include: iMortuary.com, Casket and Funeral Association of America, Cremation Association of North America, Doric The Rainforest Action Network, Pre-Posthumous Society