Natural Burial: Build an Eco-friendly Coffin and Plan a Green Funeral

Have you considered natural burial options? From sustainably harvested bamboo to simple and inexpensive DIY coffins, there are eco-friendly options to consider when it comes to funeral planning.
By Tabitha Alterman
June 12, 2009
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You don’t have to break the bank in order to plan a thoughtful funeral. You may want to consider building or commissioning a simple, handmade coffin.
STEVE MAXWELL


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Does the phrase “homemade coffin” conjure up Faulkner-esque images of weirdo country bumpkins and creepy pine boxes in the backyard? Does it make you squirm?

What about, “So sorry your mom died. We’ll need a deposit of $5,000 for the casket, please.”

If the latter doesn’t settle well with you, then perhaps it’s time to adjust your thinking on the former.

Americans routinely spend thousands of dollars on funerals, and many caskets now cost $10,000 or more. And like most products on the market today, it may be hard to learn information such as  how the product was made, where its materials were sourced, if any environmentally damaging materials went into it, or what kind of labor conditions its manufacturers faced. Especially given that you may have little time to make a decision, amidst difficult circumstances.

Building a coffin — or even hiring someone else to do it for you — is far less expensive than purchasing a ready-made model, and will provide you with a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-reliance. Another significant benefit is that building a casket allows you to construct something beautiful that honors the deceased in a way no pre-fab model can.

If DIY is not your thing and you don’t choose to build or commission a handmade coffin, there are other ways to consider sustainability in difficult end-of-life decisions. If you opt for wood, one option is to look for caskets made from sustainably sourced lumber. Check for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo. Look for suppliers with FSC’s product search tool. You may also want to visit the websites below, which offer biodegradable caskets.

Do-It-Yourself Coffins

Here are a few coffin-building and funeral-planning resources from our Archive. Check them out for detailed casket building plans and a glimpse at the many design and materials options available to you. You’ll also find some inspiration on thoughtful ways to honor people when they pass.

Biodegradable Caskets

Natural Burials

And finally, have you considered a “natural burial,” in which a person’s body or ashes is laid to rest in a wilderness area? Only natural biodegradable caskets, shrouds and ashes are permitted. And no toxic embalming fluids or vaults are allowed. Here are a few more resources that can help you plan this kind of conscientious funeral. Most of these websites have excellent FAQ sections to address potential concerns you might have about choosing an alternative kind of funeral.

Check out these great books, too.

Do you have firsthand experience with natural burials or homemade coffins? Do you know any other retailers, information resources or creative ideas that will assist others in planning a thoughtful and environmentally benign funeral? Please share them with the community by posting your comments below.


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Post a comment below.

 

Jan Taylor
1/17/2011 5:23:28 PM
The Trappist monks at Peosta Iowa, just south of Dubuque, make beautiful caskets using woods from their own forest, which has won an award for sustainable forestry. I recently bought my casket from them. The price was $1000. If, at the time of need, their prices have gone up, they will NOT charge anything additional. You can go there, to their show room, or view their web site: www.trappistcaskets.com. They also have a guest house for people who want to reserve a room for a retreat of anywhere from one to six days.

Danielle_4
7/26/2009 6:32:10 PM
my husband and I have decided to donate our bodies to science.

Dante_2
6/24/2009 1:01:12 PM
Foxfield Preserve is a nature preserve cemetery operated by The Wilderness Center in Wilmot, Ohio, just southwest of Canton. It is the first “green cemetery” operated by a non-profit conservation organization in the U.S. and the first of its kind in Ohio. You can visit their informative web site at: http://www.foxfieldpreserve.org/ or you can call Jennifer Quinn to schedule a personal tour of the preserve (330-763-1331 or call The Wilderness Center 330-359-5235). (i am not affiliated with them. But, i love living so close to a place where i may have this opportunity. And i wanted to share it with all of you.)

jaqio
6/20/2009 1:38:47 PM
i would like a natural burial but in a conventional type graveyard like those in the early 17th centuries with a big stone slab, like those seen in savannah or williamsburg va. most natural places mandate no gravestone but i would like to have one. does anyone know of such a place?

adr
6/19/2009 2:26:14 PM
There is another green option not mentioned in either your Jun09 Natural Burial article or 2001 Funeral article. Rent a coffin. Don't bury or burn a reusable resource! Casket rental is a good choice when faith or family traditions favor having the body present for a funeral but the body will be cremated and reduced to ashes for final disposition by next of kin.

Roger Nixon
6/19/2009 12:37:30 PM
You might be interested in "The Natural Burial Co-operative" which puts out a newsletter that has all sorts of info for both Canada and the U.S. FYI the home website is naturalburial.coop

cs
6/19/2009 9:11:41 AM
I loved this article very much. I have read about Green Burial Council and have the Grave Matters book. I copied your article but when I looked back to read it, half the sentences were missing! It can't be my printer because I copy other articles from other sources and don't have this problem. What is the solution to copying your articles?

Monty Peck
6/17/2009 9:34:59 PM
The county I live in doesn't use vaults in it's cemetery. As far as I know there is no limit on the type of casket you can use. My wife and I live on a small acreage, and we both plan to be buried on our land. This is legal as long as the plots are at least 300 ft. from the well. We are setting up a foundation to use the land as a cemetery for low income families, and yes they will all be green burials. I have already made caskets for myself and my wife.

Becky Smith_2
6/17/2009 2:13:21 PM
I attended the green burial of my friend's mother, back in the UK a couple of years ago.It was truly a beautiful setting in the rolling hills of the Midlands. She is now laid to rest in a beautiful place, surrounded by nature and fresh air and as time goes on, a beautiful tree and daffodils will mark her place. I would highly recommend this type of burial as it a bright place to visit rather than a gray graveyard. It may not be for everyone but for those who love the earth and want to leave more than a piece of stone for people to visit in years to come, I think it's perfect.

Kim Zorn
6/17/2009 9:30:17 AM
The Green Casket Company- We make 100% biodegradable pine caskets from sustainable pine forests in North Carolina. No metal or toxins are used. They are simple, affordable and earth-friendly. www.greencasket.net 828-301-3916








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