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What Green Burial Techniques Are Out There? What Would You Want?

 
garden master
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I was reading chapter two of The Green Burial Guidebook by Elizabeth Fournier, and I was struck by the interesting green ways that people can be buried.

When I Die, Recompose Me by Katrina Spade



From the video description:
"What if our bodies could help grow new life after we die, instead of being embalmed and buried or turned to ash? Join Katrina Spade as she discusses "recomposition" -- a system that uses the natural decomposition process to turn our deceased into life-giving soil, honoring both the earth and the departed."

Capsula Mundi



From the video transcript:
"An Italian project called Capsula Mundi is aiming to present an eco-friendly alternative to being buried in a coffin. These revolutionary seeds have been developed to be an alternative. The practical burial coffins are only used for about three days and it normally takes between 30 to 40 years for a tree to reach its full potential, like a coffin. These egg-shaped pods are designed to each house a deceased human body for burial. The body would be put in the fetal position within a biodegradable pod, then buried in the ground. From there, a tree is planted above it allowing its roots to soak nutrients from the pod and grow."

My Mushroom Burial Suit (Infinity Suit) by Jae Rhim Lee



From the video description:
"Can we commit our bodies to a cleaner, greener Earth, even after death? Naturally -- using a special burial suit seeded with pollution-gobbling mushrooms."

What other green burial techniques exist that intrigue you? What would you want for your burial?
 
master pollinator
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I'm creating a Family Cemetery on our land where my husband and I plan to be buried.  https://permies.com/t/87862/ungarbage/Green-Family-Cemetery#945980

 
pollinator
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My father builds Green Caskets for those wishing to be buried in a sustainable way. He has a nice market with the local funeral home and sells a ton of caskets every year, from high end to simple "green" ones.
 
gardener
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When I read the thread title I thought "mushroom suit!" But ya beat me to it. I want to be buried on my farm when I expire, no embalming, no coffin, in a mushroom suit and in contact with the soil so all the atoms that make my body what it is can return to the earth where they came from.
 
pioneer
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James Freyr wrote:When I read the thread title I thought "mushroom suit!" But ya beat me to it. I want to be buried on my farm when I expire, no embalming, no coffin, in a mushroom suit and in contact with the soil so all the atoms that make my body what it is can return to the earth where they came from.



My plan is the same except without the mushroom suit.  I just want to be buried. I think it would be harder for my family if someone had to shovel dirt directly on me, so I've decided to be wrapped in a cotton blanket.
 
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Just drop me in the desert as coyote and vulture food. Let me rest in the land that I love.
 
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I had a seasonal stream that would push a huge plug of leaves out of the hills to become compost and one summer my horse keeled over on rocky ground so I buried him in compost in August without managing to stink up the neighborhood.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Dennis Mitchell wrote:Just drop me in the desert as coyote and vulture food. Let me rest in the land that I love.



I wish Sky Burial (eaten by vultures) was legal in this country.  That is my preference, but, not allowed.  I would love to become Black Vultures, one of my favorite local birds.

 
gardener
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This is where I wanted to be buried when I lived in central TX. Eloise Woods It's an interesting place.

Haven't found anything like that here so I figure if I can't make it to TX when the time comes I'll just go walkabout deep into the mountains & become bear food. I have an excellent spot picked out. Nice mountain views. Beautiful river. Deer & elk. Bees & turkeys. Birds & critters of all sorts. No toxic smells or plastic or artificial sounds or light pollution. Very unlikely to ever be populated or disturbed. My kind of place!

 
gardener
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I merged your stuff with the following thread. I hope that is okay by you.
 
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I'm really excited to learn more about this topic.  
 
master steward
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Dave Burton wrote: What other green burial techniques exist that intrigue you? What would you want for your burial?



Dave, Thank you for sharing the video.

I have thought much about green burial since I first heard about it here on permies.  I want to be buried on our land much like the pioneers, our ancestors, did it.  I would love to find a beautiful oak tree to be buried under.  Alas, our land is very rocky so digging a six foot hole would be hard.   My dear husband questioned that when I told him of my plans.  My answer is to be buried in the clay pit.  It is already 3 or 4 feet deep so it only needs to be made a little deeper.
 
Trace Oswald
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Dennis Mitchell wrote:Just drop me in the desert as coyote and vulture food. Let me rest in the land that I love.



I wish Sky Burial (eaten by vultures) was legal in this country.  That is my preference, but, not allowed.  I would love to become Black Vultures, one of my favorite local birds.



It may not be legal, but I think it would be fairly easy to do since you own land.  You would need a somewhat secluded place, possibly fenced so other creatures couldn't drag you away.  Your survivors would likely have to make a grave site for you, but I don't know how anyone would know if you were in it.
 
gardener
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Trace Oswald wrote:

It may not be legal, but I think it would be fairly easy to do since you own land.  You would need a somewhat secluded place, possibly fenced so other creatures couldn't drag you away.  Your survivors would likely have to make a grave site for you, but I don't know how anyone would know if you were in it.



Great idea!  I do think that, on one's own land, one should be able to dispose of these husks that are left after life in any way one chooses, so long as no one else can see if they don;t want to.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Trace Oswald wrote:It may not be legal, but I think it would be fairly easy to do since you own land.  You would need a somewhat secluded place, possibly fenced so other creatures couldn't drag you away.  Your survivors would likely have to make a grave site for you, but I don't know how anyone would know if you were in it.



Our land is by no means large enough for sky burial.  I'd hate to think of a Vulture or Raven yanking off a hand or other identifiable body part and dropping it in the neighbors' yard....

In Tibetan sky burial, the body is chopped into pieces to speed the eating process.  http://tibetpedia.com/lifestyle/sky-burial/
 
pollinator
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While my 1st choice probably isn't considered a green burial, it is also not likely to happen as it was more a joke idea.

My 1st choice is : I want to be cremated except my skull, have my ashes placed in the skull, the skull covered in silver, the silver skull engraved with who I was, then the skull passed down to my descends.
I came up with this idea as a way to mess with future archeologists. Or at least give them something more interesting than the graveyards they will be uncovering from our civilization. While I do like the idea, getting it executed would likely be a huge pain in the lawyer payments.

So more realistic, since I sort of doubt that I could easily get that sort of thing done, I am planning to dig myself a grave on my property as soon as I finish building a house. A place I know I will have for me to rot in peace. Now getting the OK to get buried on my land will likely cost me a bit of lawyer fees since WA state has a stupid law of having to be buried in "established cemeteries, which must be run by cemetery corporations", but I hopefully have some time before I need it. While a pain, I suspect I will be able to start a corporation to declare part of my property a cemetery and get it done.

However if that doesn't work out. Or just is too financially stupid to attempt.

The other option is composting burial. Thankfully Washington State where I live has just passed composting bodies laws. It takes about 2 months to turn a body into 2 wheelbarrows of soil. That can then be used on my property to help grow something.





Of course, I will have to look into this human compost method a lot more after it actually gets off the ground as a "burial method" since the wood chip,s alfalfa, and straw might not be organically grown. Last thing I would want to do is add a lot of toxic gick to the land I love by having myself composted in GMO or some nasty chem sprayed stuff.
 
gardener
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There is evidence that "composting" a body is *less* likely to contaminate ground water than burying the body 6 ft down. I believe that deep burials were started to keep animals from digging up the remains, but if you surface compost aerobically in lots of leaf mold and sawdust in an animal-proof containment device, the body will decompose quickly and if you have implants that won't decompose, they could be sifted out and put in an urn or recycled other ways (think hip replacement.)

On farm burials are not legal where I live, but if I was considering leaving identifiable remains anywhere, I would want some sort of non-biodegradable token be buried with the body. That way if it accidentally gets dug up, authorities won't waste a bunch of time wondering what the cause of death was. Since I live in earthquake country, disturbance is a genuine risk.

I've thought for years that our typical North American burial practices are a *huge* waste of resources. I'm really hoping that a legal, more environmentally sustainable practice will be easily available by the time I need it.
 
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I'm looking forward to reading more on this subject.  My wife is horrified by modern burial practices and shudders at the thought of what a mortician will be doing with her body.  Our daughter has already told us that she doesn't do funerals, so don't be offended when she doesn't show because it doesn't have anything to do with not loving us.  She went to funerals for her favorite grandmother and younger brother and wants nothing to do with more funerals.  Our son feels much the same way for the same reason.  I love the land we are building on, and would love to be buried on it instead of the cemetery where we own plots.  My only concern is that unless our granddaughter stays in state the rest of her life instead of going back to Texas, our place will be sold as soon as we are both gone.  Then what happens?  I guess if we have a green burial like some of the suggestions above it won't be an issue.  I'm interested to find out what kind of information has to be passed on to future property owners.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Bob Gallamore wrote: I'm interested to find out what kind of information has to be passed on to future property owners.



214.090.  Family burying grounds, how secured. — Any person desirous of securing family burying ground or cemetery on his or her lands, may convey to the county commission of the county in which the land lies any quantity of land not exceeding one acre, in trust for the purpose above mentioned, the deed for which to be recorded within sixty days after the conveyance; and such grounds, when so conveyed, shall be held in perpetuity as burying grounds or cemeteries for the use and benefit of the family and descendants of the person making such conveyance.

http://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=214.090&bid=11597&hl=

The cemetery information conveys with the deed.
 
pollinator
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News about human composting have arrived in Europe! As I read… It seems people who want this kind of progress know who to vote for in 2020!
 
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Great forum. I am enjoying all these inquisitive minds. For those of you who are craving some basics, there are lots of ways to make a burial more environmentally friendly, but a few components are the most important for creating a true green burial.

Don’t Use a Decorative Casket


The typical casket used today is not made to be biodegradable; it’s made for preservation. Modern burial boxes are manufactured from reinforced steel or shellacked hardwoods, then embellished with metals, handles, and ornamentation. All that metal, lacquer, and toxic glue is certainly no good for the environment. If you decide you want a casket, opt for a basic wooden casket, like a plain pine box, or one made from other natural materials: bamboo, sea grass, banana leaves, and even willow branches. Earth-friendly caskets are fully biodegradable. They will break down to nothing, and they shouldn’t have any traces of metal, toxic glue, plastic, or varnish.

However, you don’t need to use a casket at all. A deceased person can easily be wrapped in a favorite non-bleached or dyed cloth, blanket, or tapestry, and several types of commercially made burial shrouds and wraps are now sold.

Don’t Use a Burial Vault or Grave Liner

A burial vault — also referred to as a grave box, casket liner, or outer burial container — is a container made from concrete or polypropylene, and it is used to surround the casket for maximum preservation and to prevent the grave from collapsing over time. Green cemeteries prohibit them entirely, and traditional cemeteries are beginning to forgo their obligatory inclusion. A green burial should be designed to allow the body to naturally return to the earth at the fastest rate possible. By not using a vault, the process happens much more quickly.

Decline Embalming

Embalming fluid contains formaldehyde, a likely carcinogen that is hazardous to the environment as well as to the embalmer. Forgoing standard embalming doesn’t necessarily mean that a funeral must happen more quickly: Alternatives do exist for preserving a body for a moderate period, such as “green embalming” techniques as well as good old-fashioned refrigeration and dry ice. If you are using a funeral home, they will be able to assist with standard refrigeration, but if you are handling the body yourself, you might need some instruction. However, don’t let the idea of an unpreserved body gross you out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes it clear that the average dead body is neither dangerous nor contagious. Our society has developed a number of myths and misconceptions about dead bodies that I hope my book will help dispel.

Use a Green Burial Site

Ideally, to ensure an eco-friendly burial, choose a fully natural burial ground whose sole purpose is eco-conservation. Another great choice is a hybrid or low-impact green cemetery, a burial area that has adopted environmental practices but also allows for traditional graves. Or, if the law allows and the land is available, consider a backyard burial. See chapter 6 for more on this. A backyard burial takes some extra planning, and some extra work, but it may be the greenest way to say goodbye.
 
pollinator
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For me, just a simple Shallow grave so that my body will decompose, in a sheltered not too dry spot on the plains.
 
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dump me in a pit near a tree, that way the fungi can eat me. as long as i dont cause water pollution its fine.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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What is illegal could be expressed in another wya, because I understand that it transmits ANGER, like about laws.

Those laws come from moments of epidemias, and I would not want some people to contaminate after death! But it should certainly be possible to enlarge the options we have now!

Again, the impossibility to enlarge to everybody the possibility to be free about our body after death ...just signals that we are too many on earth to be able not only to LIVE but also to DIE the same way as animals !!!
 
Jay Angler
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:

Those laws come from moments of epidemias, and I would not want some people to contaminate after death!

I agree, and this is an issue in certain cases where I would support cremation as an important option. But we know much more about both hot composting and microbes and soil testing than we did when those laws were enacted. Diseases like cholera are spread by water, so composting properly with lots of healthy microbes to ensure that all the bacteria/viruses/chemicals/drug residues that humans harbor stay away from fresh water supplies has to be part of the new reality of using environmentally sound ways to return humans to the cycle of life and death. As Elizabeth Fournier stated - the simple act of denying embalming will make the whole process better for the environment. Tackling the whole "fear of death" mentality plaguing society, will take more work and much more support and input. There are people I know who are freaked by the idea of "worms eating my body", but many of those people are disconnected from nature and death in so many ways, that tackling that issue will require longer, gentle suggestions of better ways to live and die.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I fully agree and this is what I mean. I have written elsewhere about the problem of fear of death. I am happy about the compost solution, but it is very different from wanting to be just burried and let the body decompose by itself!
 
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For me, put me in the ground in a pretty spot and plant a cottonwood. I love trees and those are so majestic.

Anyone know the laws for Manitoba, Canada? Years ago someone researched and found that a $100 legal burial here was possible, and it had many green aspects to it...pretty much all of it in fact. Can I find that original CBC Radio documentary? No...
 
Devin Lavign
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I was surprised how after posting about this stuff I was discussing with some locals about WA new composting burial law and how much of a push back against it I found from locals.

From conspiracy theories of government plots, to sacrilege. The folks in my small town seemed quite against by the idea. But oddly most agreed they would like to be buried on their land rather than in a cemetery.
 
pollinator
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Dave Burton wrote:What would you want for your burial?

Mushroom suit please!
So where does one get one of these mushroom burial suits that Jae Rhim Lee talks about?
If the mushroom suit is not available in my area, can I just write in my will for my coffin to be packed full of mushroom spawn around my body?
Maybe I should approach the local mushroom farms in my town about the idea of sourcing my burial spawn, get a pre-order lined up... :-)
 
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