By Johanna Munson
Making decisions about your own end of life now brings peace of mind.
We have this one precious planet to live our one precious life on, so why not make choices that will contribute to preserving it? You may already live these values by recycling, reducing your consumption, driving less or using public transportation when possible, eating an organic or plant-based diet, getting active in advocating for climate-friendly policies, and more.
Now you have the opportunity to make a difference after your death by choosing a “green” option for what you want done with your body. If you are interested in exploring choices that are easier on the planet, read on.
Green burial is one option, and many cemeteries are adding separate areas for those who want a physical site to visit. Requirements for this type of burial are to:
Forego toxic embalming
Do away with concrete vaults
Choose biodegradable containers, caskets, shrouds
Discontinue herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers
Encourage sustainable management practices
Graves are marked by natural materials, or may be found by GPS locators. Often the cemeteries support land conservation efforts.
My father was the first to have a green burial at the Hillcrest Cemetery on Bainbridge Island in 2019. His body was wrapped in a cotton shroud then placed in a willow casket, along with my mom’s ashes. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I am drawn to go visit them. Go to the Green Burial Council website to learn more and find a local funeral home or cemetery that offers this.
If you’re thinking cremation is the choice for you, there’s another option that is much more earth-friendly called aquamation. Alkaline hydrolysis, water cremation, and resomation are other names for this process. The body is placed in a pressurized tank with water and potassium hydroxide, and breaks down leaving just the bones (and any implants, which can be recycled).
Just as in cremation, the family receives the remains and can follow your wishes as to how those “ashes” are treated. Aquamation uses just 1/8 the energy required for flame-based cremation, equivalent to filling an SUV’s gas tank for each instance. Twenty-two US states have approved this process, and more are considering including it as an important way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Contact your local funeral home to see if they offer this service.
Seattle-area companies are in the forefront of a new concept called “terramation,” or body composting. Yes, you can be turned into beautiful rich soil and brought home to nourish the flower garden, or delivered to a conservation site where the land needs nutrients in order to recover and thrive.
Two facilities are now open- Return Home in Auburn and Recompose in Seattle. Their methods are similar, taking between 2-3 months. Both are open for tours if you’d like to see the process and meet the staff- I highly recommend taking a field trip if you’re in the Seattle metro area. Terramation is legal and available in 5 states now (Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont, and New York) and you can follow the availability where you live on this website: Terramation in my state.
Putting these kinds of decisions in writing now is a huge gift to those who love you. Take the time to make plans now and take the burden off those who will be grieving your departure. You need a guide who can take you through a thorough end of life planning checklist, and I would be honored to serve you in that role.
Article written by:
Peace of Mind Guide
End of Life Resources LLC