Monday, August 22, 2011

Natural Burial

"gasp! I know what I want to do when I die!" You probably dont hear this phrase very often...esp. from a 23 year old. For some reason, while browsing the internet after a long day at work, I was thinking how much a standard funeral costs and how harmful to the environment it can actually be. I actually really care about the environment and I think I'd like to do whatever I could to be cleaner and live better for our planet...for later generations.

As I am looking around on the web, I stumbled on what is called "natural Burials". A natural burial is natural as you can get. Ya dig a hole and chuck a body in it I suppose. There are also pine boxes that are allowed to replace lacquered wood and metal caskets.

That doesn't sound very um...socially exceptable, is it even legal?

of course, here are the requirements:

If there is an outer case around the coffin, the uppermost part of the outer case must be deeper than 1.5 feet from the natural surface. [28 Pa. Code 1.21(a)]

If there is not an outer case and there is just a coffin or just the body with no coffin, then the item buried must be deeper than 2 feet from the natural surface of the ground. [28 Pa. Code 1.21 (b)]

If the death was not from a contagious disease, no state law requires a casket or vault.

The Cemetery Law at 9 P.S. 10 provides "It is unlawful to use for the burial of the dead any land the drainage of which passes into any stream furnishing the whole or any portion of the water supply of any city except beyond the distance of one mile from such city." Thus, check with the local sewage enforcement officer as to the distance a septic system must be from a well and apply similar distance between the well and the grave site.

 Now, you might ask you're self..why would you want such a barbaric thing done with you're self? Isn't that what they used to do in the days before we knew what the hell we were doing? Is it even safe for everyone to be around a dead body in a hole in the ground? The answers are yes for both. We did used to bury everyone this way. well.. why have things changed? I assume mostly because of status symbolism and being egocentric, because if you think about it, burying people this way is very bad for the earth. Also, the only person who worries about a cement vault is someone like Adam West in the episode of Family Guy were the Mayer is afraid of a zombie apocalypse.

think about it though, *Each year in U.S. cemeteries, we bury 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid, which includes formaldehyde; 180,544,000 pounds of steel; 5,400,000 pounds of copper and bronze; and 30 million board feet of hardwoods, including tropical woods. . . Cemeteries turn beautiful places into a monoculture of gravestones—really a landfill of embalming chemicals and cement. Then backhoes, lawnmowers, and tree pruners put diesel emissions into the air and pesticides and fertilizers into the water.

Then there's the costs. A traditional funeral can be a very expensive undertaking.  According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral as of December 2006, was $7,323.  That figure included costs for a casket and an outer burial vault, but not for a cemetery plot, which adds an additional $500 to $5,000 or more, depending on plot size, location, cemetery, and amenities such as monuments and perpetual care., then cremation is the way to go. That's gotta be better for the planet right? That's what I thought too...but actually:

*Cremation is more cost-effective than a traditional burial, but has its own adverse environmental impacts.  The biggest issue is fossil-fuel consumption during the cremation process.  A single cremation uses the same amount of energy as is consumed driving 4,800 miles (7,700 kilometers). Total energy expenditure for all cremations performed in the U.S. each year could instead be used to propel someone to the moon and back 85 times.
Another environmental issue with cremation is that it is a source of air pollution and of highly toxic mercury emissions – primarily from dental amalgam fillings.  An estimated 1,000 to 7,800 pounds (450 to 3,500 kilograms) of mercury is released annually in the U.S. by cremations.  Of that, 75% becomes airborne where it can be breathed in by all of us.  (Mercury emissions could be reduced by changing cremation practices, but that would increase costs for operators and therefore consumers.)  In addition, crematoriums may be responsible for as much as 12% of all dioxins in the atmosphere – a serious carcinogen and mutagen formed when chlorinated compounds are oxidized.

Some but not all cremation remains are subsequently buried in a memorial setting.  In cases where they are not, many people feel deprived of the opportunity to visit a special place to honor the departed loved one.

So, whats another reason to do things, um...naturally? Well, it's all about giving back to the earth. You came from nature...dust and god's breath if you're one of them christian folk, so why not go back from whence you came? It's all about the circle of life! *cue lion king music*.

alright alright, I think I get it but its still kind of weird. How do you go about doing something like that anyway?

here's the deal:

1) If you have your own rural land, check your local zoning laws for rules on home burial. It is allowed in most states. You can be as natural as you want on your own land. In Pennsylvania, a burial must comply with the state’s “depth of grave” requirements as mentioned earlier.

2) Forgo embalming. It is never routinely required by law for funerals and its unlikely that any cemetery requires it for burial.

3) If the idea of not being buried in something is odd enough for you, Select a wood casket or cardboard box—or shroud—for burial. There are no laws requiring particular types of caskets—even if you encounter resistance from the funeral director or cemetery.

4) If the cemetery won’t let you skip the vault, you can choose a concrete grave box that has an open bottom to let the body come in contact with the earth—or invert a concrete grave liner and use the lid for something else.

I've made up my mind at 23 years old after work one night. It's certainly they way to go to help a little at a time with the environment, after all..I've been going "Green" before it was a popular fad. Have YOU giving this issue any thought? Perhaps you should.

Next on the list, A living will! juuuuust kidding.

* Compiled using statistics from the Casket and Funeral Association of America, Cremation Association of North America, Doric Inc., the Rainforest Action Network, and Mary Woodsen, Pre-Posthumous Society).
*Is Cremation any Greener?

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