'Green' burials skip the embalming chemicals and synthetic casket

Wednesday, April 09, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: green burials, embalming chemicals, synthetic casket

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(NaturalNews) The latest industry to "go green," so to speak, is the death industry. That is, increasingly, more funeral homes and cemeteries are offering chemical-free embalming for the deceased, thanks to the efforts of a group dedicated to increasing green burials.

According to The Washington Examiner, it is one of the newest trends among surviving family members: Skip the embalming, forget an elaborate casket and concrete vault -- just wrap the dead in a cloth shroud and bury the body in the earth.

In fact, one Washington, D.C.-area cemetery is being recognized as a leader in the green effort. But it's not just any cemetery:

The Historic Congressional Cemetery reported [recently] that it has been certified as a "Hybrid Service Provider from the Green Burial Council." They said Congressional is the only cemetery within a 100-mile radius of Washington to get the certificate.

"Green burial options are increasingly popular with pre-planning baby boomers and other socially and environmentally conscious individuals," said cemetery president Paul K. Williams, "and with the designation, we are proud to be the only cemetery in the Washington D.C. metropolitan region to qualify to date."

Cemetery officials said in a statement to the paper that green burials have been occurring there for a number of years, along with burials in traditional caskets and vaults.

No embalming chemicals or concrete vaults are used. "In addition, burial must take place in an eco-friendly container such as wicker casket or plain wooden box without hardware. Some individuals wish to be buried only clothed in a shroud, which the cemetery also allows as part of its new designation," said the cemetery statement.

Mourners can, however, leave flowers.

'You only need to be dead'

When the Examiner asked what happens when bodies eventually collapse and the ground sinks in, Williams said the ground is filled in. But that's not an unusual thing.

"They all eventually do (even casket burials [do] in about 45 years), and we fill them in," he said [parentheses in original]. "We don't require vaults anywhere, which help prevent this, but those eventually also collapse."

At present, there are still about 2,000 slots open at Congressional, and they sell for anywhere between $4,000 and $8,000. Also, said Williams, you don't have to be a former lawmaker or Supreme Court justice to be buried there. "You only need to be dead," he mused.

Some of the "famous" buried in the cemetery include famed U.S. composer John Phillip Sousa, who was head of the Marine Corps Band from 1880 to 1892; Col. Frank Wharton, commander of the Marine Corps in the early 1800s; Presidents John Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, among others; and Dolly Madison, former First Lady and wife of founding father and President James Madison.

As for the Green Burial Council, the group's website says it is "an independent, tax-exempt, nonprofit organization working to encourage environmentally sustainable death care and the use of burial as a new means of protecting natural areas."

"Through a mix of evangelism, economic incentives, and solid science, our mostly volunteer organization has become the standard-bearer in this nascent field and the conduit for conservation at an intersection that's never been crossed," the site says.

As to the approval process, the group relies on four criteria:

--Certifiable standards. Approved providers must meet these, and they are continually evolving, as the organization comes "to better understand issues ranging from the science behind green burial to legal/compliance matters."

--Public affairs. The organization informs the general public about the need for "sustainable" funeral and cemetery options, "in part to help create economic incentives for the deathcare industry."

--Awareness. Officials with the council ensure that funeral directors and cemetery operators, as well as product manufacturers for the industry, "are made aware of our most pressing environmental concerns and can competently serve families seeking greener options."

--Focus on conservation. The council provides "new ways" to bring conservation entities together with representatives from the funeral service industry to create burial options and programs "that aid in the restoration, acquisition and/or stewardship of natural areas."


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