Friday, August 28, 2009

Green Right to the Very End

The Star had an article about green burials in Cobourg, Ontario. I've always had issues with the way we're laid to rest, particularly the mahogany trees that have to be felled to contain a corpse. I'd be happy to be dumped in a pit reminiscent of the final scene in Amadeus. Now that's a real option - almost. There are no biodegradable body bags in Ontario, but we can be put in the ground in a cardboard box. One reluctant client (or client's daughter really) of a similar burial ground in Britain said the white cardboard casket reminded her of an IKEA flatbox, but nevertheless, it's the remnants of plentiful trees, not the solid boards of a less populous species. The law states that we have to be buried in something. If we're down far enough to avoid getting dug up by animals, I can't imagine the necessity for a container at all - as if a cardboard box will throw off the scent. It seems a formality, a sign of being civilized.

They don't embalm the body with chemicals either, so the body has to be buried quickly. This means the funeral can't be open casket - just as well if the casket reminds people of the Trondheim collection. In fact, if it's difficult to assemble people in a timely fashion, the funeral will likely have to take place after the burial. Personally I've never been thrilled with open-casket funerals anyway. The dead body is not the same as the person I knew. It's just a bag of bones. But for some people that will be the stopper.

Another potential stopper is the lack of any markers. There are no tombstones in green cemeteries, only wildflowers. They advertise that people can come to visit the meadow, instead of the one little plot of ground. In Britain they allow a tree to be buried on the actual plot to mark it, but that will be a problem if this takes off. Your tree of choice likely can't be contained to a three by six area. My mother was cremated, which is not at all eco-friendly, but it did allow me to keep her ashes under a tree at home.

But if markers aren't an issue, and not having a casket at the funeral is acceptable, then it seems a reasonable choice.

ETA - It was very unfortunate timing that I posted this shortly before we lost a student at our school. I'll keep it up because I do think how we embalm and bury our dead under a layer of cement is an important environmental issue to address, but I'll post more so it's not the first thing that comes up on the screen, although the tragedy has left me too distracted to write much lately.


shroudwoman said...

Unembalmed bodies can be shown at a viewing if desired when the body is kept on dry ice.
This is the method used in the U.S. in the growing trend to leave the funeral home out altogether and keep the body at home in state (like in the turn of the century) in the "parlour" and invite friends and relatives over. This method of "HOME FUNERALING" is not for everyone. People choosing this method should be prepared for the reality of Death.
We have been kept so in the dark around the reality of this subjest and many people are too overwhemed to have their loved one's body (without their loved one in it) rapidly become a flesh slab of ashen clay without all the make-up, etc. of the embalmer. I have seen people flip out especially in the case of a young person's death.

Marie said...

A great movie with a home funeraling scene is Night Zoo. A son lovingly washes his father's body and lays him out.

Marie said...

I just clicked on shroudwoman's name, and she sells green burial products. Click on her name for the website.