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Morning Sun
  • Plan a better burial

  • When deciding to adopt a sustainable lifestyle, it’s easy to become confused and overwhelmed by the details, choices and potential pitfalls. The same is true for dying sustainably.

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  • When deciding to adopt a sustainable lifestyle, it’s easy to become confused and overwhelmed by the details, choices and potential pitfalls. The same is true for dying sustainably.
    For the last century, “death care in America has been about impeding this process of death and decay and regeneration,” says Joe Sehee, executive director of the Santa Fe-based Green Burial Council. “Green burial invites people to get in sync with it.”
    In essence, a green burial is one that reduces the toxins, natural resources and energy consumption involved in memorializing someone after death.
    This can mean anything from coffins made of sustainably harvested wood to selecting a container that requires less fuel to transport, according to the GBC.
    Sehee suggests determining what matters to you personally, and making that the centerpiece of a green burial plan.
    “We’re trying to avoid this ‘good, better and best’ approach,” he says.
    Sustainable burial is still an emerging concept in the United States, Sehee says, and some death care professionals are eager to label a process as eco-friendly so they can increase the price. The GBC’s Web site is launching a new and improved search function that allows people to locate sustainable burial resources in their area.
    Sehee is also working with state parks departments in places like Texas to implement programs that let people scatter ashes in exchange for a tax-deductible fee that goes to offsetting carbon emissions and protecting at-risk landscapes throughout the state.
    “It’s about leveraging the burial process to do good and make our death matter,” he says.
    Options for green burial
    Green caskets: Look for versions made of sustainably grown woods that don’t contain metal. Unlike a traditional casket, sustainable models encourage the body’s return to the soil in a vault-free burial.
    Natural embalming fluids: Traditionally, bodies are pumped with formaldehyde-based embalming fluids to preserve the body for burial. Non-toxic versions made with plant oils will keep the body suitable for viewing, then biodegrade a few weeks later.
    Cremation: This method was applauded for its minimal use of materials, then decried for its energy consumption. The GBC commissioned a study that found that purchasing a $5 carbon offset can neutralize emissions from the cremation process.
    By the numbers
    Check out the materials used annually in the United Stated for traditional burial.
    827,060
    Gallons of formaldehyde-based embalming fluids
    90,272
    Tons of steel
    2,700
    Tons of copper bronze
    30
    Million board feet wood, including tropical hardwoods
    1.6
    Million tons of reinforced concrete
    Source: Green Burial Council
    Did you know? A 2007 study by the AARP found that one-fifth of Americans older than 50 would prefer some type of eco-friendly death care.
    Page 2 of 2 - Eco life
    Each year, traditional burials consume enough steel to reconstruct the Golden Gate Bridge, and enough reinforced concrete to pave a two-lane highway from New York to Detroit, according to the Green Burial Council.
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