Green Burial (2nd post)
Each year, this is what goes into the ground as a result of traditional burials (and these statistics are a few years old):
30 Million board feet of casket wood, including tropical hardwoods
90,000 tonns of steel – more than enough to build the Golden Gate Bridge
1.6 millions of concrete in burial vaults
Over 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid, more than enough to fill an Olympic-size pool
First of all, WHAT HAPPENED to the dust-to-dust thing?! How can we go back to dust if we are in a steel casket in a concrete vault and are stuffed with embalming fluid? The most frightening thing that ever happened to me in my whole life was when we buried a teenaged friend when I was maybe 14. After the burial, I saw the minister give KEYS to the casket to Martha’s mother. KEYS! What, was Martha going to try to get out?!!!! Holy SHIT! That was the first time I decided that I was NOT going to be in a casket. That was almost 50 years ago.
For those of us who have our own land, we can bury our loved ones there, as long as we are located an appropriate distance from the local town. You can learn that from your local county. We have our own designated family cemetery. You can also be buried in your local church cemetery. These all are green burial alternatives. Even the Veteran’s Administration allows green burials in their national cemeteries. That said, what IS a green burial?
Green burials involve NO EMBALMING. That means, after a loved one passes on, they are put on dry ice. Dry ice can be purchased almost anywhere. The loved one is bathed and dressed by family and friends, and laid upon a bed resting on dry ice to preserve their body from deterioration for up to three days. Family and friends can come visit and laugh and share.
A casket can be prepared from anything – a simple pine box, a cardboard box from a refrigerator decorated by the deceased ahead of time or by friends, or just a favorite biodegrable quilt to wrap them in.
In our case, a delightful site under a chosen pine tree has been selected for each of our final resting places. Even our pets can rest beside us when the time comes, and most cemeteries won’t allow that. Instead of headstones, we will have wooden benches or, in my case, a bat house of the wonderful creatures that eat those pesky mosquitoes! The most lovely part is that when I have melted into the earth, someone else can take my place there. No wasted space. And no laying beside strangers on either side of me with other strangers walking around me putting flowers and rice and other weird things on graves next to me. Who ARE these people my family paid a fortune for me to ‘rest’ next to?
Some of you are saying, about now, “I plan to be cremated.” Okay, I get that. It costs less and you get to go home in a pretty urn. However, there is the environmental impact of cremation to consider as well. I know – consequences….. groan. Each cremation uses about 28 gallons of fuel and releases about 540 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Thus, the roughly 1 million bodies that are cremated annually in the United States produce 270,000 tons of carbon dioxide. That’s more CO2 pollution than 22,000 average American homes generate in a year. Sigh, reality. Just not the same as when the Vikings or the Native Americans did it. Plus, you guessed it, the embalm the loved one first. And put ‘em in a casket. Got to have that funeral! Go figure. Even if they don’t do the embalming and casket, they STILL have a funeral – sent to one for a family member a couple of years ago in a church. Pictures and everything. Seems we could have done it in one of the home of the 13 brothers and sisters….. Go figure. He was also a veteran but was ‘mad’ at the military, so his family had to pay. Anger – to the tune of how much? Sheesh.
Okay, so I’ve given you enough to think about. If you want any details, I’ve got plenty, especially if you happen to live in Texas. Feel free to email me, and I’ll do my best to lead to whatever you need to know to move on to the next step. Sure, it gets complicated, but it’s cheap and dignified. Later, I’ll speak about dying with dignity. For now, I think I’ll go talk with my trees.