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Old 10-29-2007, 10:05 AM   #1
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Green Funerals

Would you want one? Will they change how we deal with death, will large numbers of people ever choose this?

Portland Press Herald

GREEN FUNERALS: Putting aside embalming and tombs
Some believe that services at home and simple caskets gradually
will change how society deals with death.

By JOHN RICHARDSON, Staff Writer October 28, 2007

Klara Tammany's mother didn't want a typical American funeral.
No embalming, no metal casket, not even a funeral home.

When she died after a long illness a couple of years ago, family
members and friends washed and dressed her body and put it in
a homemade wooden casket, which was laid across two
sawhorses in the dining room of her condo in Brunswick.

Then, for two days, friends and family visited, brought cut
flowers, wrote messages on the casket's lid and said goodbye.

"We had this wake, and it was wonderful," Tammany said.

The home funeral is part of an emerging trend that some believe
will change the way Americans deal with death. Send-offs like
the one Tammany planned with her mother are called "green"
funerals because they avoid preservative chemicals and steel and
concrete tombs, all designed to keep a body from decomposing
naturally.

After the wake, Tammany's mother was cremated and her ashes
buried near the family's camp in Monmouth.

Another alternative that is just emerging in Maine is natural
burial in a green cemetery: wooded graveyards that ban
chemicals and caskets that won't easily decompose.

Two such cemeteries are now preparing to do natural burials in
Maine, in Limington and in Orrington. There are only about six
operating green cemeteries in the United States, but many more
are planned, according to those tracking the trend.

"I think it's a tidal wave that's coming," Tammany said. "The
cultural way of dying and taking care of the dead is changing."

Next weekend, green funerals will be the subject of the annual
meeting of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine, a nonprofit
group that provides information about alternatives to modern
funerals.

Mark Harris, author of "Grave Matters: A Journey Through the
Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial," will be the
keynote speaker.

"I think it's going to change the funeral practices in our time.
The demographics are just too strong," Harris said during an
interview last week, referring to the baby boomers.

"This is the generation that brought us the first Earth Day ... that
brought organic food into the grocery store," he said. "I think
they'll bring the same environmental consciousness to bear to
the end-of-life issues as they approach them."

The idea of earth-friendly funerals is catching on as part of that
broader green movement. But there are other factors, too,
including distaste for the embalming process and modern
commercial funerals that can cost $10,000.

A green burial can cost $1,000 to $2,000, although there is no
market standard. Tammany's mother's funeral and cremation
cost about $350.

Some also have the desire to return to a simpler, personal way of
laying loved ones to rest.

"It's a lot more than just about the environment. It's a return to
tradition. It speaks to the idea of dust to dust," Harris said. "This
is the way we used to bury people, in the first hundred years of
our country's history."



FUNERAL DIRECTORS' OPINIONS

Around the country, Harris said, some funeral directors are
opening up to the trend. Many advocates expect funeral homes
and cemeteries to offer more "green" alternatives, such as
preservative-free burials.

But there also is resistance.

Peter Neal, a funeral director based in Guilford and spokesman
for the Maine Funeral Directors Association, said the trend
sounds good on the surface, but presents problems when you
dig into the details.

"The green concept is a wonderful concept. There are many
areas of our lives that we can" reduce environmental impacts,
Neal said. "But this one's a little bit more of a problem."

In Maine, for example, the ground can freeze in winter and make
it harder to dig graves. Funeral homes typically store bodies for
spring burials, something made easier with formaldehyde and
the embalming process.

And embalming, developed during the Civil War, also protects
against the spread of bacteria and disease, he said. "It's my
great hope it stays in the hands of professionals," he said.

Neal doesn't see a large movement toward green funerals and
burials. He oversees five funeral homes and has had one family
request a green burial. He turned that one down.

"It's a very small group that's talking about it. It's not for
everybody, just the logistics of it," he said, noting that the
earth-to-earth idea might not have wide appeal.

"You may or may not want your loved one's body to go back to
the earth as soon as possible. (Preservation) was very important
to the Egyptians, and it has some importance to people today,"
Neal said.

Green advocates agree that the trend is not for everyone, but
they shrug off the criticism from the funeral industry.

Burying in winter is less of a problem in a forested cemetery
than in an open field, they say. A green cemetery near Ithaca,
N.Y., has buried 21 people since opening last year, and did not
have a problem with frozen ground last winter, according to the
owner. The cemetery also has equipment to heat the ground, if
necessary.

Tammany said her mother's two-day wake proved to her that
there is little need for embalming, a process she called
disrespectful to the body.

Although a body might need to be kept cool with ice or dry ice
in the summer, Tammany said, her mother died in October, and
she kept a door cracked to keep the body from decomposing.

Embalming is not required by the state and is not necessary for
health reasons, said Dora Anne Mills, director of Maine's Center
for Disease Control. Chem-free burials are done in most of the
world and are not a health risk under normal circumstances, she
said.



GREEN BURIALS

Green burials are routinely done in this country as well, in the
Jewish community.

"Our people are always buried in wooden caskets. There's no
metal (and no embalming), so everything decomposes in its
natural state," said Darrell Cooper, administrator of Chevra
Kadisha, the Jewish funeral home in Portland.

"We've been practicing this for thousands of years, and now it's
coming into vogue."

Jews do not cremate bodies, although cremation is frequently
part of the green funeral trend.

The cremation option has gown rapidly in the United States, and
nearly 60 percent of Mainers now leave the world by the ashes-
to-ashes route.

Cremation is considered a greener alternative to modern burials,
especially with limited options in family or green cemeteries. But
it also has environmental impacts, including pollution from
crematories.

Maine crematories release about 20 pounds of mercury into the
air each year, for example. The mercury, a neurotoxin that can
get into the food chain, comes from amalgam dental fillings that
most people have.

For Klara Tammany and her mother, a home funeral with
cremation was the best alternative to a funeral home and the
embalming process.

Now that the alternatives are growing, Tammany likes the idea
of a green burial when her turn comes along.

"I came from the earth," she said. "Put me back in the earth and
I'll make something grow."
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Old 10-29-2007, 10:13 AM   #2
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I'm all for cremation, I won't need my body anymore and I really don't want to take up any space in the ground when I'm gone...

I've never understood funerals. You embalm the body so people can come look at you one last time, most of the time it doesn't even look like you, and then people stand above you and say things like; "he looks so peaceful", or "he looks really good". Screw that!!!

But having it in someone's home? I can see where that wouldn't easy for everyone...
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Old 10-29-2007, 10:28 AM   #3
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I'm all for it, and personally, like the rest of my family, am for getting crematted.
In Germany we still have a mandatory graveyard (literally translated: graveyard constrain), except for e.g. a burial at sea. I don't think it's too necessary, though I can see that there has to be limitations on where you can bury a person.
Over the last few years some kind of "burial tourism" has developed, because if you go to a crematory in the Netherlands or Poland you can avoid the graveyard mandatory. So, especially older people go to the crematories in those countries to get an impression of it and making some arrangements and once they've died there body will be transported to the desired crematory.

I don't know where the problem would be to bury the urn in your own backyard. In case of my father it would have been better if my mother had that option, because that's the place where he is meant to be. Now he is buried on a cemetery although none of us is in church anymore.

A green burial is a nice idea, though it should be considered that nowadays the ground at graveyards is some of the most poisoned of all due to all the medication that gets into the ground, if the body didn't get cremated.
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Old 10-29-2007, 06:27 PM   #4
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Green burials,
I agree it's a good thing.

We are just passing on, not trying to grip to some permanent place in this present world.


0 Happy Day
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Old 10-29-2007, 06:49 PM   #5
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When my mum died we did a direct cremation which meant no embalming or viewing. Apparently in Ohio (at least at that time) you can't have an open casket at a funeral home without embalming, but my sibs and I all have an intense dislike for open caskets/viewings anyway, so that was just fine with us.

I'd be happy (well, I wouldn't care either way since I'd be dead and wouldn't be here, but you know what I mean) to have my body disposed of in a similar way when I die.
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Old 10-29-2007, 06:56 PM   #6
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Cremation for me -- throw my ashes into the wind.
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Old 10-29-2007, 07:26 PM   #7
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I'm down for cremation, or donating my body to the Body Farm or scientific research. Of the open caskets I've seen, none of the people looked ANYTHING like they really did. When my friend/roommate died, some of my other friends did not want to look at the casket and I'm glad they didn't, b/c that was not her. I don't understand why people do it.
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Old 10-29-2007, 07:31 PM   #8
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When you can't believe it happened, and don't want to, you feel you need to.
We did, because we couldn't believe it, and needed some kind of certainty.
But it happened nearly 1,000km away, and so suddenly...
You could see it must've happened very fast as he looked like he was sleeping.

But I agree, in other cases it would certainly be different and maybe better to have another "last picture" of one person.
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Old 10-29-2007, 07:37 PM   #9
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Question about "open casket" wakes/funerals: is that a denomination-linked custom, i.e. some Christian denominations almost always do it while others almost never do, or is it more of an up-to-the-individual kind of thing? I've always wondered about that.
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Old 10-29-2007, 07:52 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
Question about "open casket" wakes/funerals: is that a denomination-linked custom, i.e. some Christian denominations almost always do it while others almost never do, or is it more of an up-to-the-individual kind of thing? I've always wondered about that.
I think it's custom to most protestant denominations, at least in the US... The only Catholic funeral I've been to was closed, but that may have been due to the fact that she was murdered and her body was decomposed.

I've seen a lot more closed casket recently, I think it's partly a generational thing, I think some people need to see that person one last time for closure.
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Old 10-29-2007, 08:09 PM   #11
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My grandmother was part of the Protestant faith, and the wake for her was an open-casket thing, so I think you may be right about it being mainly related to that faith, BonoVoxSupastar.

I wouldn't be all that comfortable with a casket in my home-it'd kinda weird me out, personally. But...*Shrugs*. It's up to each family how they want to go about holding wake/funeral services. If that way of doing things works for someone, have at it.

I honestly don't know yet what I'd want to have happen to me after I'm gone (probably because I'm only in my early 20s and don't really plan on leaving just yet ). That's something I'd have to think about a bit more-whether or not I'd want a funeral or whether I'd want to be cremated or not. I do like the idea of being able to donate my organs and stuff to anything that needs it, though. I think that's a worthy cause.

*Is sorta creeped out right now* But hey, perfect time to bring up this sort of topic, given what Wednesday is .

Angela
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Old 10-29-2007, 08:16 PM   #12
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Open casket for Catholics is pretty much the norm in my community. I'm not sure if it's a denomination thing or a community thing.
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Old 10-29-2007, 08:17 PM   #13
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Most of the Catholic wakes I've been too were open casket.
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Old 10-29-2007, 08:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
Question about "open casket" wakes/funerals: is that a denomination-linked custom, i.e. some Christian denominations almost always do it while others almost never do, or is it more of an up-to-the-individual kind of thing? I've always wondered about that.
I don't know if it's an explicitly Christian thing, but almost every funeral I've heard about includes the casket and the visitations are open casket. The only times I can think of that they are not are if the person that died already had arrangements to be cremated, or if the body was too damaged (car accident).

My grandpa had an open casket at the visitations even though most of the family did not want it. In his last days, his head/face had swollen to twice it's normal size. Even before he died, he did not look the same. Same with my friend. Her cancer took her hair, caused her face to swell (even though she was skeletal), and her skin turned really pale and orange. The body in the casket looked like a very bad wax interpretation of Amanda. Nothing was real and everyone knew it, why try to fake it? Maybe for some it gives them peace, but for me there was more peace from looking at pictures of us when we were having fun and smiling.
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Old 10-29-2007, 09:07 PM   #15
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I think it must be more of a community/region thing because I was in my teens before I saw my first closed casket wake/funeral (even the people who died in bad wrecks got open caskets and those were not pretty at all). I remember thinking how much better I liked closed casket wakes and funerals.
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