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.
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.
- Homemade Caskets: You Can Make a Coffin
- Country Lore: A Casket to Live For
- How to Arrange a Simple Burial
- How We Personalized Our Father’s Funeral
- Greener Ways to the Great Beyond
- Ark Wood Caskets
- Eternity Environmental Casket
- Griffith Woodworks
- Kent Casket
- Natural Burial Company
- The Old Pine Box
- Oregon Wood Caskets
- Vermont Coffins
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.
- Glendale Memorial Nature Preserve
- Green Burial Council
- A Greener Funeral
- Greensprings Natural Cemetery
- Memorial Ecosystems
- Memorial Society of British Columbia
- North American Woodland Burial Society
- The Green Funeral Site
Check out these great books, too.
- Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love by Lisa Carlson
- Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris
- Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
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.