Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2007

Biodegradable coffins part of trend toward eco-friendly burials

December 27, 2007


— Cynthia Beal wants to be an Oregon cherry tree after she dies. She has everything to make it happen - a body, a burial site and a biodegradable coffin.

"It is composting at its best," said Beal, owner of The Natural Burial Company, which will sell a variety of eco-friendly burial products when it opens in January, including the Ecopod, a kayak-shaped coffin made out of recycled newspapers.

Biodegradable coffins are part of a larger trend toward "natural" burials, which require no formaldehyde embalming, cement vaults, chemical lawn treatments or laminated caskets. Advocates say such burials are less damaging to the environment.

Cremation was long considered more environmentally friendly than burials in graveyards, but its use of fossil fuels has raised concerns.

Eco-friendly burials have been popular in Britain for years, and industry experts say they're starting to catch on in the U.S., where "green" cemeteries have sprouted up in California, Florida, New York, South Carolina and Texas.

The majority of eco-friendly burial products come from overseas - including the Ecopod, which is made in the United Kingdom - although there are a few domestic makers. Options range from natural-fiber shrouds to fair-trade bamboo caskets lined with unbleached cotton. There are also more traditional-looking handcrafted coffins made of wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

The market is potentially huge. U.S. funeral homes generate an estimated $11 billion in revenue annually and that figure is sure to grow as baby boomers age.

Biodegradable containers cost from around $100 for a basic cardboard box up to more than $3,000 for a handcrafted, hand-painted model.

"It's hard to tell if it's a fad or if it's here to stay," said Bob Fells, of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association. "We are certainly positioning ourselves that if this is what the community wants, we are ready to serve them."


monkeywrench1969 10 years, 3 months ago

I had a very close friend who was the manager of a casket company warehouse in KC and they have had "biodegradable" caskets for years. I toured the plant and it was quite interesting. Until this new push for eco friendly products they were reserved for transients and individuals who had no money at death. These are the products of state funded burials. They are literally a $200 (Charged to the state) card board box with some material glued to the sides to place the deceased in at burial. It is good to see the mark up the eco-friendly crowd are willing to pay for a "hand painted model".

Personally, I would pay whatever to insure my loved ones were in a solid quality caskets for eternity unless creamation was your thing.

Kathy Theis-Getto 10 years, 3 months ago

Cremate me and scatter my ashes in the Rockies - they are so beautiful.

This is silly - why not biodegradable material?

Ragingbear 10 years, 3 months ago

I just plan on selling the bodies to the Soylent Green factory.

Mmmmm... Soylent Green....

BigPrune 10 years, 3 months ago

In Kansas, conrete burial vaults are required by law. They are required for in the event of a flood - so corpses don't bubble up to the surface and end up on someones front lawn or in the street.

preebo 10 years, 3 months ago

Push the little daisies and make 'em come up...

Erin Parmelee 10 years, 3 months ago

Well, personally, I am in favor of cremation, but that's only because the law doesn't allow me to just be layed to rest in the forest and decompose naturally. The whole "business" of death just creeps me out! But, if you're in favor of a traditional funeral, I can't for the life of me figure out why you wouldn't be in favor of a biodegradable coffin. I really and truly don't understand the whole "preservation" angle.....

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 3 months ago

monkeywrench1969, when you wrote "... would insure my loved ones..." did you mean instead to ensure your loved ones...?

BigPrune 10 years, 3 months ago

Since a person has to be buried in a concrete vault, why does it matter if the coffin is biodegradable? The burial vault isn't going to biodegrade.

George_Braziller 10 years, 3 months ago

Sorry to bust your bubble but other than the state of being dead there is no such thing as "eternity" as far as your body is concerned. Embalming only delays decay, it doesn't stop it. Even if you spend $20,000 on a vault and a casket your body is still going to decay.

"Personally, I would pay whatever to insure my loved ones were in a solid quality caskets for eternity unless creamation was your thing."

trinity 10 years, 3 months ago

what about mausoleums(sp?), eh? i don't know much about those! i prob'ly could never afford one, but just curious.

Bitterfalls 10 years, 3 months ago

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It is the natural order of things to return to the soil from which we are created and sustained.

But with the Bush regime and FEMA and the likelihood of biowarfare, our natural burials will most likely be in mass graves. Thats right, you read me: I blamed Bush for natural burials!

But an eerie and frightening fact is the existance of MILLIONS, yes, thats right, MILLIONS, several hundred thousand in each location, of plastic coffins being stockpiled outside of Atlanta Georgia and Madison Wisconsin and other areas. Mostly nearby proposed or existing FEMA concentration and "Work camps" part of the REX84 projects on American soil. Those coffins are designed and constructed of material that burns "Without harm to the environment". Savor the irony there.

Now another consideration: In many old cemetaries with un-marked graves, mostly of original settlers or on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails, when such graves are found, researchers and others are very hesitant to dig them up because so many died of plagues like typhus, or whatever was going around, and those virii and diseases can live on, and be released if the graves are opened or disturbed.

"Land of the free, home of the brave Go buy a cheap shovel and dig your own grave"

Or in the words of my grandmother: "It costs $1200 bucks for a cremation? Well doesn't that just burn you up!?"

matahari 10 years, 3 months ago

I am not paying $200 for a cardboard box, but if it's cheaper than cremation, and I must, I will..... me decopher the cement thing mandatory a some cemetaries? And if that cemetary says so, and could you just go find a cemetary that will accept cardboard?

Bitterfalls 10 years, 3 months ago

Wasn't there a "Natural Burial" cemetery started near Lawrence a few years back?

Is Jimmy Hoffa buried in a "Natural cemetery"?

Can I build my own cardboard coffin, and decorate it with macaroni and beans glued to it, and painted? Or maybe have my auntie knit a nice cozy for it?

This will be quite an undertaking.

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