6 Planet Friendly Alternatives to Traditional Funerals
Why I became a memorial planning coach in my “second act”
I learned the hard way, through agonizing personal tragedies, what’s really important for a memorial. Again and again, I encountered grief-stricken scenarios where no memorial plans were in place for a loved one. I stepped up to help because others were unable to function and prepare, facilitate or lead memorials. I put my own grief aside to help family members and close friends through tough times. These extremely difficult experiences led to my decision to become a memorial planning coach, which I do with my whole heart. I know first-hand a meaningful end of life experience need not be sterile, abrupt, costly or impersonal. It should be warm, personal and comforting, and not break the bank.
A meaningful end of life experience need not be sterile, abrupt, costly or impersonal.
Why plan a meaningful end of life experience in advance
Do you have specific ideas about how you want your remains handled or your goodbye ritual? If so, make sure you leave a plan. Families greatly appreciate this information so they can honor your requests. Beware that if you don’t prepare a plan in advance, you leave loved ones in a vulnerable position where they must make difficult choices in the midst of their grief. As a result, people often spend unnecessarily in that critical moment, and then regret the financial consequences later when the bills arrive. If you prepare now, you can better protect your loved ones from this burden.
Alternatives to traditional burial customs
As I pulled together memorial arrangements for bereaved friends and family, I learned the usual funeral traditions are not the best choice for our planet. An eco friendly memorial is a much better choice for nature lovers.
• destroy and take up precious land space
• pollute the land with toxic materials (caskets, heavy steel or concrete vaults)
• poison the earth with chemicals unnecessarily used for embalming purposes
• require excessive use of pesticides to maintain cemeteries
• cost too much
In contrast, various earth-friendly options exist that do not negatively impact the planet. And as an added bonus, going “green” costs a whole lot less, which is always helpful.
This new, gentler process uses significantly less fuel and has an overall lower carbon footprint than both traditional cremation and burial. Water cremation (also called aquamation, biocremation, flameless cremation, or alkaline hydrolysis) uses water, alkaline chemicals, heat, and sometimes pressure and agitation, to accelerate natural decomposition. This decomposition process is the same as that which occurs during burial, sped up dramatically by the chemicals. No tissue or DNA remains after the process completes. The effluent, discharged with all other wastewater, is a welcome addition to the water systems, making this one of the most earth-friendly options for handling remains.
‘Direct’ means the cremation service does not include the extra cost or service of a viewing prior to the process. Cremation is the process of burning a dead body at high temperatures until there are only brittle, calcified bones left. These bones are then pulverized into “ashes.” The ashes are kept in an urn, buried, scattered or even incorporated into objects as part of the last rites of death.
Ammended ashes (to be plant and tree friendly)
Contrary to public opinion, cremains are not earth-friendly because they contain a high alkaline and sodium content. Amendment kits or biodegradable urn kits neutralize cremation ashes that make planted or scattered cremains safe for the garden or around trees.
Scattered ashes/planting tributes in parks, forests, residential property, or religious grounds
Some of these locations allow the scattering of ashes or planting tributes. Contact the state park for their forms and protocols, and your local county clerk for residential zoning laws. If you want to scatter the ashes on religious grounds, contact the staff for permission. Some local parks only allow dedication plantings and/plaques that don’t include cremains.
Direct or natural burial
This type of burial is one of the most eco-friendly for the disposal of remains. A natural burial can include a casket or shroud made from bamboo, cotton, or seaweed. Alternatively, you can wrap the deceased in a simple cotton or bamboo quilt, sheet, or blanket for burial. Locate a natural burial site or contact your local county clerk to start a natural burial site on your rural property.
Green burial in a green cemetery
A “green” burial is the least planet-friendly option outside of traditional funeral burials. These burials use harmful materials in large amounts and take up valuable land space. Green burials include caskets made from earth-friendly materials and buried in a designated green cemetery where no toxic materials have been used for embalming, caskets, or vaults. However, what people don’t know is that the “green” cemetery materials do not compose naturally like the organic caskets or shrouds used for burials in natural burial or conservation sites.
Traditional funeral companies sell ‘green’ options that are basically caskets made with less toxic materials than the usual caskets sold. And often those ‘green’ options are rendered ‘non-green’ because they sometimes are buried in a traditional cemetery next to other toxic materials, caskets, vaults.
The bottom line
Earth-friendly burial options are more personal, meaningful, and earth-friendly than traditional funerals. End of life plans represent the legacy you want to leave, so please consider a planet friendly option if you love nature. A “green” departure is also significantly less expensive than traditional funerals. Mapping out a detailed creative memorial plan in advance relieves excessive and unnecessary cost while it protects your loved ones from unexpected additional burden during their most vulnerable moment. Consider an eco-friendly memorial when you prepare your end of life plan. To ensure you and your loved ones have peace of mind around your final legacy, get it ready now. Don’t wait.
About the author:
Jenny Leigh Hodgins is a 50+ woman managing her roles as a creator, coach, and caregiver for her 80-year mother. Her blog and podcast hosted at YourCreativeChord.com offer empowering ways to nurture creativity and inspiration. Jenny is also the creator of a coaching program entitled, Explore, Choose & Plan Your Creative Memorial where she helps people explore alternatives to traditional end of life plans. Join her Creative Memorial Planning Facebook Group here.
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originally posted 12/8/2020