Surely this was not always the norm in the United States. One has only to notice all the small family burial plots all over the place. There is one visible at the land fill, another off Ware Road, and so on. When did we change to allegedly mandatory cement encasements for coffins and almost de rigeur embalming? In Vermont there is no legal mandate to go this route. Way back then I decided firmly that I wasn’t going out that way. Given my own personal druthers, I would like to become mulch, and be buried in a simple biodegradable sheet or shroud so my molecules can be recycled into the everlasting cycle of life: earth to earth, ashes to ashes. I am a big fan of Mother Nature.
Of course, not everyone wants to go that route. You may have an uphill struggle if you want to be buried in a simple pine box as folks did years ago. It is also legal in Vermont to bury your dead on your own property so long as you have enough acreage to do so without impacting a well, stream or a water source. You need only to get an OK from your town clerk. If you do not live on a large parcel of land, the Manitou Project in Brattleboro will allow you to be buried on their very large land preserve off Sunset Hill Road. They are practicing the concept of natural burial as part of a way to preserve land and wild habitats.
The concept of “green” burial is gaining traction nationwide. There was a recent long article about it in the Sunday New York Times, mentioning that conventional burial annually doses the soil of the United States with 800,000 gallons of toxic embalming fluids. That is every year, folks. Cemeteries are considering adding to their conventional acreage a section that is “natural,” allowed to become a woodland or prairie-type landscape to preserve the land as open space, park land of a sort. Some of the loveliest parks existing in cities today are the very old cemeteries like Mt. Auburn outside of Boston that is both a cemetery and an arboretum.
Then, of course, there is cremation, somewhat “greener” but still producing greenhouse gases and other pollutants during its process. It wasn’t fun or easy getting born and it might not be very easy to, as they say, “shed this mortal coil.” But we are all going to have to do so one day. The decisions made about your remains will end up being made by those who survive you. If you have strong feelings about it all, you had best get it down in writing and have a talk with your likely surviving kin. In case you missed it, this is another plug for you to do your advanced directive now!
I recently wrote a first draft of my own obituary to save my kids from having to remember where I went to high school, etc. When I mentioned it to my daughter she shrieked at me, “I don’t want to talk about this. You have to live forever (good luck on that one). If you do die I am going to have you stuffed like Roy Rogers did with Trigger and keep you in the corner of the living room!”
Well, I suppose that would be pretty “green.”