The act of returning the body to earth has been the tradition throughout the history of man. It was done naturally – an eco-friendly burial before the phrase had been coined. Usually bodies were either wrapped in a shroud or placed into a wooden or wicker casket, and buried. A wooden cross often marked the grave. These products are all easily broken down over time.
The Civil War and the Rise of Embalming
It was the Civil War that introduced the widespread use of the embalming process to the United States. Embalming was used to sanitize the dead soldiers so that they could be returned to their families. After the Civil War, embalming became more about preserving the body. Toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde and other preservatives were developed; and metals, plastics and concrete were used as part of the burial.
As the U.S. population grew, so did cemeteries and the tradition of memorializing. Wooden crosses gave way to monuments that ensure loved ones are not forgotten. Wooden caskets have given way to steel caskets and concrete vaults to ensure preservation of the body. This type of burial will not breakdown in several lifetimes causing more harm to the earth.
Return to Eco-Friendly Burials
As we become more aware of being good shepherds of the earth, we are beginning to recognize the need to be more eco-friendly. This means that we watch not only our day-to-day activities, but also consider how we return ourselves back to Mother Earth. Many other parts of the world have embraced eco-friendly burial for generations. The practice of eco-friendly burial is beginning to gain popularity in the United States by the growth of conservation or green burial cemeteries.
What is an Eco-Friendly Burial?
Eco-friendly burial includes the burial of a body that is not embalmed and placed into a biodegradable casket or basket or wrapped in a shroud and placed directly in the ground. As consumers have become more educated about eco-friendly burial, the traditional cemeteries are now adapting to meet these needs.
In addition to green burial, many people choose to memorialize their loved ones with a living memorial. A living memorial is a memorial planting using the cremated remains and an organic mixture to make the cremated ashes plantable.
On their own, cremated ashes are extremely harmful to the earth. But by combining them with an organic mixture, you can make cremated remains into nutrient-rich soil that can be returned to the earth.
It may not be “burial” in the traditional sense, but for some it’s the right eco-friendly burial alternative.