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  • Shadrack Agaki

    This is such an interesting article. in Africa death is seen as a sacred event where the dead are given their last respect.however i think we are having Natural Burial Grounds . but it is so insightful. this discussion is supposed to be taken to a larger audience

  • A Will for the Woods

    Thank you for sharing this fascinating article on this very important subject. It's interesting that you chose to focus on Joshua Tree, as that fierce landscape was the inspiration for one of the natural burial movement's pioneers, founder of the Green Burial Council, Joe Sehee.

    I wanted to share with you and your readers our feature documentary on the green burial movement A WILL FOR THE WOODS. We have had tremendous success showing the film at festivals, with a warm audience and critical reception, as the recipient of four audience awards and three "Best Doc" nods.

    And just yesterday, we released the film to our community so that they can start hosting screenings (more info: www.awillforthewoods.com/screenings).

    Here is our trailer: www.awillforthewoods.com

    Thank you!

  • Rama Hoetzlein

    I would be happy if we could simply dispose of our trash properly. The average person produces 4.5 lbs/day of trash. Thats 57 tons in a lifetime. Put into perspective, your lifetime trash will be equivalent to 900x the weight of your single body.

  • Tom Maybrier

    The Tibetan Buddhist practice of sky-burial, where a corpse is placed on a high peak to be scavenged by birds and decomposed through exposure to the elements has always struck me as very beautiful, both for its simplicity and sustainability.

  • Kyle Simonson

    My family has been burying our pets in our yard for years. From a mouse to Great Dane. And we live in the heart of a major metropolis. Actually, one of Great Danes we cremated because he died in the winter.
    And we buried my grandma's Maine Coon cat next to her gravestone on Memorial Day weekend. The problem was what to do with him during the winter. A friend of ours was kind enough to let us use their deep freezer. He fit in medium sized tupperware container which we labeled with his name, so they wouldn't accidentally thaw him out (they do a lot of hunting.) His name was Twinky (a grandma named him, what are you gonna do?) What we didn't think of was the fact that this friend ran a home based daycare, taking care of preschool to latchkey kids. And she kind tends to have a lot of kids, because she can't say no.
    Needless to say, Twinky was found by some curious kids who thought they had hit Lois' motherlode of snacks. I think the kids weathered it okay, but we (and they) probably won't know for 10-15 years.

  • della2

    What lovely choices we have to make for a more sustainable death environments.

    della badart

  • Natural Death Centre Charity

    Now this is such a great summary of the options. I am biased to say my favourite is a Natural Burial Ground. Originally pioneered in the UK (we now have over 300 open in last 20 years) and are spreading around the world. To find out more about Natural Burial have a look at the Natural Death Centre Charity Web

    Susan Morris, Trustee
    The Natural Death Centre Charity, Association of Natural Burial Grounds @ndccharity
    Educational charity which sees death as a natural part of life. Founded in 1991, it is committed to supporting cultural change and is working towards a situation where all people are empowered in the process of dying, and organising a funeral.

  • mlafreniere

    One of my favorite books addressing natural burial (and other sustainability issues) is What We Leave Behind by Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay. It would be great to have them do a piece on the capitalist mindset in relation to environmentalism.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      That's a fascinating idea. Would love to know what you'd focus on if you wrote a piece like that.

  • billycampbell

    I have to say that with natural burial, fungi play a natural role in breaking down the body. You do not need a suit. Lots of prairie plants have roots that go down 9 feet, and have associated fungi (mycorrhiza). Why does alkali decomposition only reduce greenhouse gasses by 35%? Because it takes energy to create strong alkali. Same with liquid nitrogen. With natural burial, your body's nutrients are returned to the living landscape with nature's economy, at nature's pace. And with Conservation Burial, you are actually helping to protect and ecologically restore a significant natural area. The article seems a little product and technology ("gee-whiz") centered. Simple conservation burial is here to stay. Take a look at Foxfield in Ohio, the Gendale Nature Preserve and Prairie Creek in Florida, Ramsey Creek in SC, Greensprings in NY, Honey Creek in Ga, and probably another dozen or so around the country. Billy Campbell

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Have you visited those conservation burial sites? I'd love to know what they're like. I was fascinated with this piece mainly bec of the different options it explored. Which option would you choose?

      • billycampbell

        I have visited all of the sites I mentioned, and helped with most of their start-ups. We opened Ramsey Creek in 1998, as our lab for figuring out how to do it. I gave a TEDx talk in Greenville, SC last spring on the philosophical grounding for what we hope to see happen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyA0VLzOPPA ..it runs about 13 min.

        • Alessandra Rizzotti

          This is fantastic Billy. Your sense of humor is great and I love how you talk about these spaces as places for the living as well. I think places like Forest Lawn in California could be great places for the living- but they're taking up so much space instead.

      • Callielou

        In New Jersey there's still only one cemetery providing green burial, pretty remote from where I live (Princeton.) http://www.steelmantowncemetery.com/ I toured this quiet woodsy spot with the smart and earnest folks who operate it (performing only about one burial every 2 months, so far). Green burial just makes so much more sense than using vast amounts of energy to incinerate a body, rich with nutrients that could return to nature. This is what I'd prefer for my final disposition, or for a family member; I do hope that other similar facilities will be developed within reach of more people. -- Callie Hancock

  • Eric Greene

    "What about burying a pet's remains?” “What about pet cemeteries?" The Green Pet-Burial Society has been addressing these issues since 2010. Most pet cemeteries in the US encourage or require the use of plastic caskets or metal containers, are not deeded in perpetuity and are not regulated in the same way as human cemeteries. We educate the general public about green burial options for pets, and we educate cemetery professionals about the importance of green burials.

    We also encourage the ancient tradition of "whole family" conservation cemeteries. "Whole family" means that the remains of any and all members of one’s family – including animal companions – may be buried in the family cemetery plot. There are currently seven whole family cemeteries in the U.S. Unfortunately, many states have laws that prohibit animals from being buried in human cemeteries. A "conservation cemetery" is essentially a nature preserve. Since it is expensive and complicated to create new nature preserves, in order to ensure that land is protected in perpetuity, we can designate an area of land to be protected as a cemetery. In this way, we can better ensure it will be a beautiful and healthy place for wildlife and human visitors. Learn more at www.greenpetburial.org.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Interesting that some state laws prohibit pet burials in human cemeteries. Wondering how you get around that with your service?

      • Eric Greene

        The primary services of the Green Pet Burial Society are educational. Most people don't even know the option exist, but as Billy Campbell notes, most conservation burial grounds would be receptive to burying pets in family plots - if state law allows it. With support, we want to change those state laws that still prohibit it, and expect to launch our first campaign in CA next year. For people wanting this option for their family - they can always check our Directory under 'Whole Family Cemeteries' http://greenpetburial.org/providers/

    • billycampbell

      did not see your post before I posted, but y'all are spot on. At most conservation burial grounds, we take pets. Figure if we have all sorts of other animals dying and staying on site, why would we specifically exclude pets. Pretty stupid laws.

  • Alexander Rose

    oooo I love the clay-pot-sinking-into-the-ocean situation you highlighted above. Completely dramatic and awesome!!

  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    This is one of my favorite pieces in the magazine. It's so beautiful. Really changed my mindset about death. Promession is the way I'd go...How would you?