Many of us in the Midwest live in areas without access to certified burial grounds, conventional cemeteries that offer a green option, or in states that require the hiring of a funeral director at the point of death. Because of the situation we face, many of us have to make choices that are not perfect choices. Here are five simple hacks to make a funeral and burial greener. At the end of the day, we all can only do our best.
Don’t Be Embalmed That is easier said than done if you live in Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, or New York. Many funeral homes require embalming for public viewings, or wakes, or any kind of an open coffin. If you live in one of these states there might be a Death Doula close to you that will be able to direct you to a good funeral director. If you do not live near a home funeral guide, I recommend you shop around at local funeral homes. If you live in the Chicagoland area, contact us and we can provide you with contacts.
Some of us come from traditions that necessitate an open coffin for our religious rites. Some of us come from cultural traditions where viewing the body is central to the grieving process. Most funeral homes offer direct burial, but you should not have to settle for direct burial if it goes against your heart. Any funeral director should be able to offer refrigeration. An open coffin with a natural body will not spread disease, most diseases die with the body. You still need to take proper care of the body after death, but this is not a difficult process. The point is, plan ahead of time. Stand by what you know is right and what you know fits with what you need through the grieving process. Feel free to contact Midwest Green Burial Society if you need any assistance with this.
Invert the Vault. Many of us live in states where there are no certified green burial grounds. You might find yourself wanting a green burial, but have no place to bury in a green site. If you cannot find a cemetery that does not require a vault, or if you are pressed for time and are deep in grief, remember to ask that the vault be inverted. The coffin or shroud will be in contact with the earth, and might be the most natural way you can bury your loved ones. Many cemeteries will comply if you tell them that your loved one will not be embalmed and you want to make greener choices.
Low Impact Coffin or Shroud. Shrouds least impact the environment at the time of burial. You may need a board for extra support to help lower the body, but it is by far the simplest way to be buried. There are a few on-line to choose from, but remember you can make a shroud from a qulit or blanket. MGBS has a resource page with some low impact coffins and shrouds. While we love the wicker and wool coffins, we look to the amount of jet fuel to takes to get here from Europe, and we feel strongly about shopping locally.
On-line Memorial. Remember not everyone can come to a memorial event or they live far away, making travel difficult, costly and use too much fossil fuel. Create an online page for people to express their grief, and a way to share favourite stories. We live far away from each other physically, but we can come together online to be a support to each other.
Use Locally Source Flowers. Instead of using florists, who often use environmentally unfriendly practices get your flowers locally, even a home garden. For an even greener choice, contact your local conservation district office and ask which indigenous flowers or decorative branches you could use. In the winter, evergreens would be a beautiful choice. For a memory gift, consider making seed packets using seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or other local seed saving groups. We use Seed Savers Exchange seeds for our seed pack/business card. Use of these kinds of seeds promotes biodiversity.
Remember, whatever choices we made in the past were made because we thought we were being responsible. I suggest we do not beat ourselves up about the past and start today educating ourselves so that we can make better choices in the future.