More Room for Me . . . at the Cemetery
Today’s guest post is written by Ed Munger:
It’s always a fitting time to consider what kind of environmental destruction I’ll leave in my wake once I depart.
Others, I’m afraid to say, are more concerned with their environmental footprint – or body print – than I am. For them, there’s a veritable cornucopia of options for final remains, aside from traditional cemetery burial.
Some offer the option of leaving a real statement that says “hey, this guy really cared about the planet.”
Some of the natural and green burial movements aren’t a major departure from tradition, but these options do seek to reduce the human impact after death.
Cemeteries are gradually opening up spaces dedicated to environmentalists – some go so far as to offer wildflower meadows devoid of headstones and markers.
These options further reduce environmental impact by eliminating all the mowing of grass and weed-whacking that makes use of fossil fuels. It’s one of the less-extreme measures that’s taking root on the American burial scene.
More-extreme to me is this mushroom death suit I’ve been reading about. According to the Infinity Project, studies and tests are underway to develop the perfect mushroom that would “consume” what’s left of a person.
A prototype of the suit isn’t too pretty, the one I saw was black in color and looked like something you’d wear on a deep ocean dive (see below).
But it’s supposedly filled with mushroom spores which, once I started going sour, would consume all that’s left of me including all the mercury I’ve collected from eating fish I caught.
I’ll have to assume these mushrooms are not edible. I hope they place a sign or something near them so people who pick berries and wild fruit don’t accidentally make soup out of them.
I’m unsure if there’s a quiet disagreement underway between the green burial clan and the cremation club. Cremation doesn’t leave much but ash – yet it requires combustion and ultimately puts ‘people smoke’ up into the air.
I’m not going to look it up. I’m sure somebody out there has detailed all the byproducts of people combustion.
For those willing to accept a little smokestack pollution, there’s a big list of otherwise nature-friendly options for final remains.
Scattering is one of the more-senior of these options. Mariners are providing the service, offering people a chance to have their remains scattered into the ocean.
That’s a viable option for those who love the sea.
So too is the idea of incorporating a person’s cremated remains into an appropriate shape for a reef – offering tiny sea creatures a new home with a human touch.
There’s a company that will send a “symbolic portion” of cremains out into space on a commercial flight that’s heading up anyway to bring a satellite into orbit.
The company, Celstis, boasts responsibility for the first human burial on the moon back in 1999.
I’m not sure if I’m happy about this idea. I haven’t decided yet if I want to create an environmental movement dedicated to the moon, plus I’m still thinking about pitching a new idea to situate a landfill up there, so I’m a bit conflicted.
It might be a stretch to get tradition-minded people to consider having their remains cast off the planet, but that doesn’t make these people anti-environment either.
The next best thing for the terrestrial environmental burial also involves cremation ashes – placed into the Bio Urn.
These types of final resting places entail putting people’s ashes into a biodegradable cup filled with a seed so that the deceased will be engrained into a tree that grows and reaches towards the sky.
Trees produce oxygen too, so it’s a way of giving back some of the air we selfish humans think nothing of breathing in all the time.
It seems to me new methods of dealing with our final remains just keep surfacing, which is a great thing in terms of giving people options.
It’s even better for me – I consider myself among the most selfish people on my planet.
It’s no secret people are opting for cremation at increasing rates, reducing what’s left of themselves to a bucketful of ash.
Whether these remains are stored in a columbarium or scattered over the desert, ocean, or tossed on a shelf, they are taking up much less space than we, as a people, used to in the old days.
Picking up candy bar wrappers when I’m out in the woods hunting probably doesn’t get me into the environmentalist club.
Nor does keeping the heat on at 70-degrees in my house when it’s chilly.
And I need four-wheel-drive, living in Upstate New York, which requires a bit more fuel. I mow my lawn with a gas-powered mower and have no problem letting machinery do the work when there is a machine to do it.
I consider that an expression of my pride in the accomplishments of industrious, inventive people.
For a stodgy and uninteresting person like myself, all these new-age and environmentally-friendly burial methods are a source of happiness.
But that’s not because I have any intention of taking advantage of them.
I tried to envision myself as a coral reef but can’t get the thought of my old fish tank – and what the fish did to the pretend reefs I put on the bottom – out of my head.
I am equally uninterested in having a bunch of fungi feed off of my hide.
Ultimately, I plan to get the whole nine yards of a funeral just like my grandfather and his grandfather and the rest of my family.
I’ll be taking up a slew of space underground and bringing all my chemicals with me, along with my stamp collection.
So the continued movement towards Earth-friendly final remains disposition is a good thing for me.
It means it’s less-likely I’ll be told there’s no room for me in the cemetery.
Ed Munger oversees social media and assists with communications for the New York State Funeral Directors Association. Ed was previously a newspaper reporter, winning several prestigious awards from the NYS Associated Press Association. Ed is the main contributor for the blog Sympathy Notes, at http://www.sympathynotes.org/Follow him on Twitter @SympathyNotes