Death can, and should, connect to life
Over the millennia we have put our dead to rest in caves, charnal grounds/”sky burials” and in the earth, sometimes moving the bones after the body decomposed. In North America this has narrowed to a small range of choices, primarily burial and cremation, which often have a high environmental cost.
Green burial is one way to reverse this trend. It is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that furthers legitimate ecological aims such as the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Many methods, old and new, have been used or proposed under the title “green burials”: burial in the ground without embalming, elaborate casket or grave liners; cremation; resomation (alkaline hydrolysis in a solution) and cryomation/ promession (freeze-drying). Each has advantages and disadvantages to the funeral industry, the public, and the environment.
The choice of green burial, also called direct or natural burial, does not affect mourning rites, although it is usually associated with an immediate burial, no or limited viewing, and a memorial service at a later date.
Green burial usually includes:
– embalming, if used at all, is done with organic non-toxic fluids. Refrigeration is often used instead;
– interment in either a cloth shroud or a biodegradable coffin finished in natural oil with a biodegradable interior and no metal. These come in a variety of costs. No grave liners, and no concrete vaults;
– burial to support a natural eco-system, often in woodland settings in “natural cemeteries” which do not use pesticides;
– headstones (which consume energy during their production and transportation), if used, are fashioned from native fieldstones; shrubs and trees, rocks or native plants may be used instead.
The Green Burial Council, http://www.greenburialcouncil.org/ , which certifies cemeteries, funeral homes and products, does not list any certified services in the Ottawa area. Some funeral homes may provide environmentally-friendly options.
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