Back to Nature: Green Burial Movement Gains Favor
Across the country and around the world, people are changing the way they live in order to save the planet – driving smaller cars and fewer miles, reusing shopping bags, and recycling everything from newspaper and plastic containers to motor oil and batteries. Now this heightened environmental consciousness is fueling a movement to change the way we die.
According to Mark Harris, author of the book Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial (Scribner, 2007), a typical modern cemetery is “a landfill of largely nonbiodegradable – and in some cases toxic – material.” A July 2008 article in National Geographic Magazine supports that claim with some pretty grim statistics:
- 90,000 tons of steel,
- 1.6 million tons of concrete and
- over 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid
are buried in U.S. cemeteries. Add to that the fact that 30 million board feet of wood – much of it tropical hardwood – are used in making caskets, and you have not only a recipe for a toxic soup, but a practice that’s clearly unsustainable.
Nathan Butler of Indiana is one funeral director in the forefront of the green burial movement, responding to the growing demand for simpler, less costly and more earth-friendly funeral services. And he’s not alone. Although the green burial movement is still in its fledgling stages, 12 cemeteries and 60 funeral homes across the country have been certified as “green” – a trend that’s sure to continue with the aging of the Baby Boom generation.