There will come a time when we won't be here anymore. We die, bye-bye, gone...there, I said it.
A growing number of environmentally conscious people are considering more sustainable options when planning for their deaths or for the loss of their loved ones, such as green funerals and green burials (they're not the same thing). It's a natural lifecycle progression really, what with "green" weddings, and having "green" babies...
What's a green funeral?
Some funeral homes aim is to maximize environmentally friendly funeral practices (PDF file) while minimizing environmental impact. Erb and Good Family Funeral Home, for example, has 100 per cent recycled content paper brochures and maintains their grounds without toxic pesticides.
A family can choose not to embalm or embalming without formaldehyde products ("greener" chemicals are rare, but consumer demand will help pressure the industry). There are also sustainable and biodegradable shrouds, caskets or urns. And forget the silk flowers — use only native plants on gravesites!
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What's a green burial?
Green burials or natural burials are low impact, use less energy, consume fewer resources (like water), are less toxic, and may include local, sustainable materials. However, they are not available across Canada (which makes green funerals an excellent option, in the meantime.)
Bodies are not embalmed because that delays decomposition. Without formaldehyde to preserve the body, toxic chemicals are avoided, reducing harmful exposure both to nature and the embalmer.
Instead, bodies are wrapped in a biodegradable shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket. Protected green space becomes the final resting place. Currently only a few cemeteries in Canada have designated green sites at their cemeteries: the Union Cemetery in Cobourg, Ontario , Duffin Meadows Cemetery, near Toronto, Ontario and Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria, B.C.
What about cremation?
Although it seems like a greener option — because it uses few resources, takes up less space, and preserves land — traditional cremations use fossil fuels and turn bodies into air pollution. However, the Green Burial Council is working on more eco-friendly options, such as recycling medical parts and fuel-efficient containers.
Do you have a green end-of-life plan?
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green
P.S. Another way to green your loved one's passing is by making a donation to an Earth-friendly organization, such as the David Suzuki Foundation.