2006-07-03

When you go, go green

When the topic comes around - more often than you might think - I often joke that when I die, I want to be composted. Seems that others have the same idea in store for me, or someone.
The 93-acre Greensprings Natural Cemetery is the first of its kind in New York and one of just a handful in the United States, where interest in "green" burial is just taking root.
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At Greensprings, where a plot costs $500 plus a $350 fee to dig the grave, bodies cannot be embalmed or otherwise chemically preserved. They must be buried in biodegradable caskets without linings or metal ornamentation.

The cemetery suggests locally harvested woods, wicker or cloth shrouds. Concrete or steel burial vaults are not allowed. Nor are standing monuments, upright tombstones or statues.

Only flat, natural fieldstones are permitted as grave markers (they can be engraved). Shrubs or trees are preferred.
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- CNN.com - 'Green' burial offers a plot with a view - Jul 2, 2006
I like the "shrubs or trees are preferred" part. Reminds me of the Native American technique of burying a fish beneath the "three sisters": corn, beans and squash.

Surprising to me, this is not something new. Greenspring's links page lists several other "natural" cemeteries across the United States, including South Carolina, Florida (watch that high water table), and California. No markers? No problem, just load up the coordinates into your GPS device.

I joke about being composted, but only half so. My ideal would be cremation with my ashes scattered in the Atlantic Ocean. No reason to take up valuable real estate. Okay, maybe use some of the ashes for a top dressing on the flower beds.

But then the cremation itself would be consuming fossil fuels, or at least releasing sequestered carbon, and contributing to greenhouse warming. Maybe a "natural" burial would be lower impact after all. And if I could help give a good start to a young oak, I could die knowing that my life had been good for something.

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2 comments:

Hanna in Cleveland said...

When my husband and I discussed our wishes when we wrote our will, I said I wanted to be buried in a way that I could be retruned to the earth. I have heard though that state laws prevent this, which is pretty dumb if true.

This is a cool idea and one that I would like to see catch on more. I mean really, why would you want your body to exist on into eternity? Your done with it so you might as well return it from whence it came, so to speak.

Phillip said...

Unembalmed implantation has its attractions, and if it could be done in a place that didn't entail sequestering the land it wouldn't "take up valuable real estate." Personally I like the idea of exposure; something like the practice of some Plains First Nations peoples (though without the ritual, of course).

My fantasy is that I'll have the luxury of determining for myself when it's time to die. After taking care of as many details of my estate as possible, I'd take myself into some really remote place, preferably with wolves, coyotes, and/or bears in the neighborhood, and let the cousins take care of the recycling.

In the likely event that this romance will prove impossible, I hope there might be some medico-scientific interest in the study of my remains. Unfortunately that means more carbon debt due to ultimate incineration, but at least it won't be just my own parts all alone in the furnace.