Live Green, Die Green
The media have been all over stories of eccentric familiesâ€™ toilet paperless lifestyles and their green weddings, but now CNN has pushed the peripheries of ecological awareness to the end of life by making the case for a green funeral.
â€śGoing green as their final gift to the Earthâ€ť was the subject of the May 14 â€śAmerican Morning.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s very peaceful,â€ť correspondent Greg Hunter said. â€śThereâ€™s a growing interest in the scaled-down version of a traditional funeral which costs on average of more than $6,000, but cost is not the only reason people are choosing to go green.â€ť
For roughly $2,275, Memorial Ecosystems, Inc. of Westminster, S.C. will give the bereaved a green burial for their loved one at the 76-acre Ramsey Creek Preserve in South Carolina. Kimberly Campbell, who helps manage and run Ramsey Creek, told the Business & Media Institute that the cost breaks down as follows - $1,950 for the plot, $300 for the opening and closing of the casket and $25 for the stone (engraving not included).
While the savings adds to the alternative's attraction, Hunter mentioned there are only a â€śhalf dozenâ€ť of the â€śgreenâ€ť burial grounds in the United States â€“ not exactly the most convenient option for most people, especially when embalming isnâ€™t included in the process.
The minimum standard required for burial in the Ramsey Creek site allows for no embalming fluids, a biodegradable casket (but no endangered tropical woods) and no concrete vault. However, the Campbells admit it is not â€śpractical or ecologically importantâ€ť to remove all dental fillings or artificial heart valves, hips, knees, etc.
After interviewing Ramsey Creekâ€™s owners, Hunter included former Los Angeles Times Syndicate environmental columnist Mark Harris, who strongly advocated green burial in his book, â€śGrave Matters.â€ť He made the case in his book that with this greener burial, people are returning to their old-fashioned values of â€śthrift and simplicity.â€ť
â€śThis is not something that is new or is bizarre, but I think it is something that speaks to people because theyâ€™re familiar with the concept,â€ť Harris said in the CNN report.
â€śAbove ground, the local cemetery may look bucolic and natural; below the surface, it serves as a de facto landfill of hazardous wastes and non-biodegradable materials,â€ť said Harris.
Harris has also favored green burial over another burial alternative, cremation. In an interview with NPRâ€™s Fresh Air, Harris told Terry Gross that the cremation process, albeit less intrusive to the environment than the standard burial, requires electricity and natural gas to be used and also releases mercury into the atmosphere.
â€śIf youâ€™re driving someoneâ€™s ashes a thousand miles from home to scatter them in pristine forestland or air-freighting a body to a distant natural cemetery for shrouded interment there â€“ as has happened â€“ youâ€™re certainly negating much, if not, all, of the benefit to the environment you gained from choosing an earth-friendly funeral,â€ť said Harris.