While I certainly haven’t spent much time dwelling on death, I have thought that when I die, I’d like to just decompose into the earth and “return to nature.” The idea seems more natural and useful – because I’d be replenishing the soil – than, say, becoming a pile of ashes in a container. Then I heard about Bio Urns, in which your cremated ashes are buried with seeds so you can be reborn (sort of) as a tree, and I thought that was pretty great.
Now there’s a new book by Elizabeth Fournier called “The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial.” As the title suggests, it explains that there are many options for having this kind of natural burial service. The typical modern practice, which involves embalming, vaults and long-lasting decorative caskets, is very expensive and designed to keep the body of the deceased from decomposing as long as possible. The latter is a little odd, when you think about it, considering the body goes into the ground and no one sees it again anyway. Not surprisingly, embalming chemicals can also be bad for the environment.
According to Fournier, who is an undertaker nicknamed the Green Reaper in her hometown in Oregon, more and more people are opting to bury their loved ones in biodegradable containers and without using any chemicals. Depending on which states you live in, there are different laws on whether or not you have to work with an undertaker, and also whether you can bury someone in a plot that’s not in a graveyard. There are also cemeteries that are dedicated to green burials and regular cemeteries that allow for them too.
Fournier explains all this in a clear, uplifting tone, despite the sad subject, and also goes into the history of how funeral services have changed over generations. She gives several examples of lovely ceremonies that she helped to carry out, such as the one for two brothers who buried their father in a muslin cloth under a cherry tree on their family’s farm.