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Eco funerals are life affirming

Eco Funeral Planning

Funeral planning is stressful for just about everyone. But death is a part of life, and an ecological view of the process offers some reasonable alternatives. We hope to share a few good resources with you so that you can think through how you want to deal with this real part of life.

In researching this article I discovered several aspects to an "eco-funeral" that I hadn't thought of.

Eco Memorial Gardens

Memorial Ecosystems aspires to protect, restore and permantly endow one million acres of wild-lands. More than merely financing protection, the inherently spiritual nature of their endeavor seeks to develop closer ties between human communities and natural communities. Memorial Ecosystems is developing multi-functional memorial nature preserves. Through becoming members of the preserve during life, and choosing burial in the preserve after, their clients leave a permanent legacy for their families, their communities and the natural world. They are leaders in environmentally and socially responsible death care.

Glendale Natural Preserve is a similar preserve in the Florida Panhandle preserving a beautiful site with long leaf pine and wetlands.

Forest of Memories supports green nurials as a statement of personal values; it is a sustainable and spiritually fulfilling solution for people seeking to leave a legacy of care and respect for our planet. A Green Burial Ground, also known as a woodland cemetery, an eco-cemetery, memorial nature preserve, or natural burial ground, is a place where the body is returned to nature. Native vegetation (often a memorial tree) is planted over or near the grave in place of a conventional cemetery monument. The resulting greenspace establishes a living memorial and forms a protected wildlife preserve. Green burial promotes the use of biodegradable burial products such as simple wooden caskets, handmade caskets including wicker caskets or burial shrouds.

Additional alternatives include:

Northern California is leading the nation in the alternative death movement. Fernwood Burial Ground in Marin County, California, just north of San Francisco, is eco friendly with no tombstones or caskets.

The Fernwood Burial Ground in Marin County's Tennessee Valley dates from the 19th Century and is adjacent to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Home Funerals

Final Passages is re-introducing the concept of funerals in the home as a part of family life and as a way to de-institutionalize death. They are dedicated to a dignified and compassionate alternative to current funeral practices in order to transform personal views of death, diminish fears and re-frame our relationship to living and dying.

Memorial Services and Memorials

Memorial services are an alternative to funerals. With caskets a monopolistic industry in many states with funeral homes having the sole right to sell caskets, a memorial service without the body present is a viable alternative.

Some obituaries suggest alternatives to flowers. By suggesting something more gratifying to the donor, they can express their special interests and leave a sustainable legacy such as living plants for a worthy group, books on the environment for a library, donations to environmental groups, a scholarship fund for ecological studies...or support medical studies and reseearch at a favorite sustainable center.

According to a recent opinion from the U.S. Center for Disease Control, there is no public health purpose served by embalming. It is not required by law except in unusual circumstances by a very few states. Refrigeration is the usual alternative to embalming when the body must be preserved for later disposition. In other countries embalming is rarely used.

Funeral Consumer Guide

A Consumer Guide, issued by the Federal Trade Commission (www.FTC.gov or toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP) prohibits funeral homes from having a monopoly on selling caskets and other funeral items. Consumers have the right to purchase their caskets wherever they wish. Funeral homes must accept these caskets and provide the rest of the funeral services.

Organ and Tissue Donations

Organ and tissue donation not only represent generous and caring gifts that improve the quality of life for the recipient, the recycled body parts are likely to reduce the recipient's ultimate medical needs.

Casket and Coffin Alternatives

What are the alternatives to an expensive casket? Be prepared for some resentment from the mortician at losing a big slice of the funeral profit if you obtain a casket elsewhere—your right to do so is protected by federal law.

The body container that consumes the least of our resources and energy to produce is a plain wooden box. A significant shift back to the use of a simple wood coffin would also support local artisans and reduce long-distance trucking from out-of-state casket factories.

Eco-caskets come in a variety of materials and designs. Jewish tradition includes the use of a wooden casket without nails. This simple casket is a respected

Cardboard caskets (also called a cremation case) and urns are other eco-friendly alternatives that are available.

In some countries coffins are works of art. African cultures have made caskets into cultural expressions of the person's life.

"Do-It-Yourself Coffins for Pets and People" by Dale Power is one book that presents the tools and techniques needed to produce strong and beautiful coffins.

And that's another concept that I hadn't thought of...what do we do when our pets die? I've always been told that the funeral is for the living, and that holds true for memorializing our pets as well. With pets becoming more and more part of the family as we move to urban societies, pet memorials and funerals are a growing part of the lifescape.

Cremation Alternatives

Cremation is another ecological alternative. With modern equipment, the quick process of returning the body to its elements. Cremation is a trend that is increasing worldwide due to environmental issues, lower costs, convenience, and fewer religious restrictions.

Monuments and Perpetual Care

A permanent marker can be expensive or not, depending on your preference and the limitations of the cemetery. Planting flowers, a bush, or a tree are long-lasting but low-cost memorials, when permitted.

Information Resources

"Well-educated funeral consumers generally spend less and get more for their funeral dollars." Funerals.org is a nonprofit national organization providing information and consumer advocacy. You can find a link list of U.S. Member Organizations at their site, as well as helpful articles.

Their directory for California is linked to nonprofit groups in 14 cities. In visiting the Los Angeles link, I found the following information:

Contact information:

Funeral Consumers Alliance of Los Angeles
P.O. Box 92313
Pasadena, CA 91109-2313
Office: 626-683-3545
Website: http://www.losangelesfuneral.org/


For over 45 years, Funeral Consumers Alliance (formerly known as the Los Angeles Funeral Society) has promoted advance planning for funeral needs and and consumer's right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral. The FCA is a non-profit, tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization which provides information to the public about funeral choices and consumer rights. The FCA is affiliated with the nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance of America and the Funeral Consumers Alliance of California and Hawaii.

They host the following articles that can be helpful in thinking through your approach to funeral planning.

  • Twelve Reasons Why People Spend Too Much for a Funeral
  • 12 Reasons for Considering a Memorial Service Instead of a Traditional Funeral
  • One Approach to Planning a Memorial Service
  • Legislation and Other Current News Regarding Consumer Rights

Other California funeral and casket resources include:

Affordable Viewing Cremation Casket
1386 N. Winchester Blvd.
San Jose, CA 95128
408-621-8883
Corrugated fiberboard cremation casket with "wood look," lined, and 100% combustible and biodegradable.
Web site: http://www.eeternity.com/

Cremation Products Inc. (formerly Frediani Cremation)
Gilroy, CA 95020
800-837-0701
Brown cardboard cremation container, air transport containers and related products.
Web site: http://www.cremationproductsinc.com

And national resources for funeral information and help

The FTC produces "Funerals: A Consumer Guide" online at: FTC.gov

Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program
PO Box 486
Elm Grove, WI 53122-0486
1-800-662-7666
FSCAP is a nonprofit consumer service designed to help people understand funeral service and related topics and to help them resolve funeral service concerns. FSCAP service representatives and an intervener assist consumers in identifying needs, addressing complaints and resolving problems. Free brochures on funeral related topics are available.

Cremation Association of North America
401 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 644-6610
www.cremationassociation.org
CANA is an association of crematories, cemeteries and funeral homes that offer cremation.

International Cemetery and Funeral Association
1895 Preston White Drive, Suite 220
Reston, VA 20191 1-800-645-7700
www.icfa.org
ICFA is a nonprofit association of cemeteries, funeral homes, crematories and monument retailers that offers informal mediation of consumer complaints through its Cemetery Consumer Service Council. Its website provides information and advice under "Consumer Resources."

Additional Resources

Pine caskets and coffins are crafted from solid pine wood, which is sourced from sustainable forests www.eco-coffins.com

Cardboard Coffins provide light-weight, affordabl, easy to assembly, environmentally friendly caskets that produce no pollutants www.cardboardcasket.com

If I Should Die.co.uk in England provides helpful information about English burial alternatives, including Green/Woodland/Alternative/DIY Funerals. The burial of Princess Diana in the grounds at Althorp drew attention to the idea of being buried at home. www.ifishoulddie.co.uk/

Kinkaraco provides beautiful affordable dignified burial shrouds in cotton, silk or linen. www.kinkaraco.com

EcoPod caskets and urns www.ecopod.co.uk