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.

| June 12, 2009

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.

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: They also have a guest house for people who want to reserve a room for a retreat of anywhere from one to six days.

7/26/2009 6:32:10 PM

my husband and I have decided to donate our bodies to science.

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: 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.)

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!