Eco-Friendly in Life and Death

When clients come to me for estate planning, we often discuss their burial plans. Many people wish to be cremated or buried in a traditional setting. However, I recently had a client request that his documents reflect a desire for a green burial. In the spirit of Earth Day, I want to share few options with you for some after-death options available to those who want “green” burial arrangements.

1)      Green Burial

A basic green burial includes foregoing some of the usual steps that are taken in regards to caring for your body prior to and during your burial. You could forego embalming as a way to reduce the release of toxic chemicals as the body decomposes. You could choose an alternative to a vault, such as only a shroud or a casket with a lid that will collapse. The care and keeping of your green burial choices are important to make clear to your loved ones and the place you choose to be buried.

2)      Conservation Burial

A conservation burial is like a green burial except that you commit burial fees to pay for land acquisition, protection, restoration, and management. It is a way to help protect land and to allow the land that you are buried on to return to it’s natural state. It is a way to stay close to nature in death and to ensure that land is preserved for the future.

3)      Alternative Caskets and Shrouds

One aspect of a green burial is to use an alternative casket to usual choices. Often, caskets are made with harmful chemicals, harvested wood (such as wood from clear cut forests), or they may have been shipped a long distance (in some cases over 3,000 miles!) You can ask about the material that your casket or shroud would be made out of and ensure that it will decompose at roughly the same rate as your body. There are options like a wicker casket or a cotton shroud that can be made by local craftspeople.

4)      Sustain More Life with Ashes

One of the first green options that people think about is using cremated ashes to help plants grow. Cremation is a process that uses a lot of energy (it is equivalent to taking a 500 mile plus road trip) so using ashes to help plant life is a way to help create a more sustainable future. There are other options as well for those who wish to be cremated such as having your ashes help to create a coral reef to help encourage the growth of sea life and preservation of coral reefs.

In the end, there are plenty of environmental and personal reasons to opt for eco-friendly choices regarding your after-death preferences. However, it is deeply personal decision. As a planning firm, we aim to supply clients with all of the options so that they can make a decision that is best for them, their family, and their future.  For more information about green burial options check out the Green Burial Counsel, Eternal Reefs, and Bios Urn for more information about some of your options.

Megan Harris-Pero