a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

At the risk of appearing death-obsessed, I am still thinking about the process and traditions surrounding my mom’s death and funeral. (I prefer to think of it as “exploring” the subject.) My family knew my mom wanted to be cremated, but not many other things were discussed before she was gone, which made planning the details of the funeral difficult. Although I’m versed on all subjects green, it turns out that the time to speak out with ideas is (much) before the dying process begins. (I admit I thought about this several times, but had trouble bringing up my thoughts in this case.)

I did come back understanding what funerals are for – celebrating someone’s life rather than mourning their death. (I have not attended any other funerals, so I didn’t know what to expect.) Surprisingly, it felt natural and uplifting to do this and I realized that it’s an important part of the process.

So, I’m no longer anti-funeral, but would suggest more consideration of both funeral homes and families in making a permanent shift towards a more sustainable event. If you feel strongly about this, discuss it with your family now in order to avoid the conflicts that arise after the fact, when it’s easier for grief-stricken families to submit to conventional traditions which could easily be addressed under less stressful circumstances.

Sami Grover, one of our “Changers” and a writer on, covered literally ALL the angles on his Green Funerals TreeHugger post recently. I’ve noted the first 2 of 10 tips on dying green below, but it’s worthwhile to read the entire article, which includes numerous resources to keep on hand.

1. Seek Good Advice

Not long ago, the idea of green burial was unheard of by most funeral directors, and today, for a variety of practical and emotional reasons, many people still resist te idea. However, there are signs that the industry is awakening to the concept, especially since many people with environmental sympathies wish to leave the world as they have tried to live in it. A growing number of products and services can help them do just that. Key points to think about include:

— Funeral Director: Ask your funeral director about more sustainable options, or seek out a funeral home that offer green practices (more on this below).

— Green Burial: Likewise, green burial specialists can help you explore greening your final resting options.

— Literature on Green Funerals: Read one of the books that can guide you through the process. (See our “Where to Get this Stuff” section below for suggestions.)

2. State Your Intentions

If you are reading this guide with an eye to what happens to your remains when you are gone, it would make sense to talk to your loved ones about it or make arrangements ahead of time. Death can be a difficult process and, unless prompted, those left behind may not think to consider the environment in making arrangements. Even if they do, they may not have a grasp on what are the best and greenest courses of action to take.

— Define Your Wishes: Add a clause in your will or create an advanced funeral wishes document that stipulates your green funeral concerns. Consider including a copy of this guide with your instructions.

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