Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955

Cindi Landreth’s “On The Level” Column in the Cascadia Weekly; Submitted 8-27-08

(While Rick’s off hiking, Cindi Landreth, his wife and Vice President of A-1 Builders and Adaptations Design Studio, pinch hit for him and wrote the following piece.)

Okay, so you might have thought Rick was a bit morose.  He’s not alone. I want to write about the choices we have to make about what happens to our bodies after we die.

Why?  I got excited over what I found when we were updating our wills!

Ah, come on… hear me out!  It’s part of taking personal responsibility – and it is your final word about how important the environment is to you!

So here it is… have you heard of a ‘natural burial’?  What it means is:

      1. No formaldehyde-based embalming fluids are used (a known carcinogen (nasal cancer and leukemia) – the biggest danger is for workers)
      2. No concrete burial vaults are used (originally used to deter grave robbers; now used for stabilizing graves; each vault requires manufacturing, transporting and producing 1.6 tons of concrete)
      3. No metal and plastic caskets are used
      4. The body is wrapped in a biodegradable shroud or placed in a wood box before burial (your body is a natural food source, rich with life-sustaining nutrients)
      5. Sometimes the burial grounds are ecological restoration sites
      6. It is an opportunity for protection and stewardship of natural areas (also providing a life affirming memorial to our loved ones)

Hey… when I’m gone… I’m going green!

You might ask:  what about cremation?  Cremation does use far fewer resources than conventional burial but it still burns non-renewable fossil fuels and emits toxins into the air.  Here are some ‘fun facts’ about cremation:

      1. Cremation is an industrial process. The box (sometimes a bag) containing the body is incinerated at a temperature between 1,400 to 2,100° F (entire process: about 2 hours). The high heat of cremation converts our body’s nutrients into air pollution!
      2. You could drive about 4,800 miles on the equivalent amount of energy used to cremate someone – and to the moon and back 83 times on the energy from all cremations in one year in the U.S.!
      3. The major emissions from crematories include: nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury vapor, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen chloride, and other heavy metals, including persistent organic pollutants. (Modern crematoria do have scrubbers over the smoke stacks but they can’t get everything.)

Now how about some financial fun?!

      1. Natural burials can often be friendlier to the pocketbook.   According to National Geographic’s News website, a conventional funeral—including the embalming process and a metal casket—can average $6,500, plus another $2,000 for cemetery charges.
      2. A scattering of ashes at a certified natural burial cemetery may cost about $250 (plus the cost of cremation).  Body burials start at around $2,000.

Natural or ‘green’ burials, with their ecological and emotional benefits, are becoming more common but natural burial grounds in the U.S. are still few and far between.

Want to do your own research?

      1. http://www.naturalburialground.com  (White Eagle Memorial Preserve in Washington State)
      2. http://www.naturalburial.coop
      3. http://www.greenburialcouncil.org

Now, wasn’t that fun?!

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