Should You Opt for a “Green Burial”?
When the word “burial” is mentioned, a common image conjured by most people is a coffin being lowered into a burial plot. However, you may not realize that many coffins are actually quite harmful to the environment. Why? Because coffins are often manufactured using chemicals and non-biodegradable material.
Roughly one million pounds of metal, wood and concrete are put into the ground each year to separate bodies from the surrounding earth. In addition, embalming fluid, made up of formaldehyde and rubbing alcohol, is considered a Class 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and can seep into the ground and affect the surrounding ecosystems, according to Medford.com.
“There’s another option, and people need to know that it is an option,” said Judith Lorei, co-founder of the all-volunteer group called Green Burial Massachusetts. “Natural burial is much better for the environment than conventional burial or even cremation,” said Lorei.
There was a time when all burials were “green,” using no chemicals and only biodegradable materials. Then, in the mid-1940s, many cemeteries started requiring concrete liners on coffins as a method to prevent the caskets from sinking and the ground from caving in over time.
However, green burial advocates point to the fact that simply maintaining the top soil can address this issue. Another option is for “green graves” to not have an above-ground monumentation, instead being marked only by a small metal disc. They are geo-located, allowing loved ones to find the grave with a smartphone, according to the Medford.com article.
Another option is to be buried in a “mushroom suit.” A company called Coeio offers burying a loved one in a fungal shroud that transforms your loved one’s body into “vital nutrients that enrich the earth and foster new life,” according to the Huffington Post.
Is this the right option for you or your elderly loved one? Only you, or your loved one, know the answer. As an estate planning attorney, I can tell you the most important thing to do is take the time to have this important conversation – how do you want your remains to be handled? Where do you want to be buried? Do you want to be cremated? These are important questions that warrant thought and discussion. You do not want to leave all of these issues up in the air for someone else to decide when the time comes.
Sit down with your estate planning attorney and discuss all of your available options. Then, include a provision in your estate plan about how and where you want to be placed when the time comes.