Modern day burials versus traditional ‘green’ burials

Family members of 12-year old Tequila Forshee, who was killed during a drive by while getting her hair braided in her grandmother's living room, have a moment for family expressions at her funeral, Saturday, August 24th, 2013

LONG meandering fleets of cars and buses carrying mourners accompanying a loved one to his or her final resting place are now a common sight.
This scenario is witnessed in almost every town.
Mourners clad in black suits, the latest outfits and eye-wear accompany heavily decorated metal caskets or wooden coffins.
They throw trinkets and an assortment of other earthly goods that the deceased loved.
Strange as it might sound, burials have become a new hazard to the environment.
In nature, when an organism dies, it returns to the ground to become part of the earth itself.
But humans are defying this natural process and wasting resources in the process.
A modern day funeral results in the burial of concrete, metals and toxic substances in the ground.
Given several millions of burials a year across the world, the combined impact is significant.
Traditional burials, which were ‘green’ in nature, have been replaced by ‘modern’ funerals.
However, other tribes continue to be conservative, opting for traditional funerals where a coffin is not used to bury their dead.
I remember three years ago when my father passed on, he insisted that we not bury him in a coffin but instead wrap him in a cow hide or blanket.
When we asked him why, he said it was in honour of his ancestors as well as to ensure that the earth is able to regenerate and re-green itself.
We honoured his request.
When he passed on, we carried his body on a stretcher made from sticks, his body simply wrapped in a light blanket and cow skin.
It was a green burial.
There is no wastage of resources in a green funeral or toxins in the form of chemicals used to embalm the body.
Using green materials to construct the coffin or the urn contributes to maintaining an all-natural burial site.
In a green burial, the body may be buried wrapped in a blanket, shroud, or held within a bio-degradable casket, or if cremated, a bio-degradable urn may be used.
Natural, eco-friendly burials are common among tribes such as the Bushmen, Muslims, BaTonga and other indigenous tribes of the world.
These places are beautiful, natural places, which lack headstones, concrete and other man-made materials that detract from the natural environment.
Special flowers, plants, shrubs and native or newly planted trees can be used in place of a headstone to mark the burial location of a loved one.
Family and friends can plant, care for and witness the new growth in that special place.
The use of natural, bio-degradable materials for burying a person ensures the surrounding environment will not be adversely impacted by the burial.
Rather than being designed to prevent the decomposition process, as is often the case in modern coffin construction, in traditional burials, natural materials which are fully bio-degradable are used.
They allow the human body to return to the earth with little environmental impact.
Locations for natural burial are becoming more common, as more people learn about the benefits of natural burial.
Long ago, there were natural burial sites.
These environmentally friendly, natural burial sites were a preferred choice to normal burial grounds, particularly for loved ones who cared for the environment.
Natural burials ensure that the natural process of decomposition of the deceased’s body is not inhibited in any way, allowing for the natural recycling process to occur as nature intended.
This process is similar to the burial process used before the end of the 19th Century, when embalming was not a common practice and the caskets were made of natural, plain wood.
In a natural burial, the body is prepared without the use of chemical disinfectants and preservatives.
Natural burials can be done on burial sites and in cemeteries that accept the natural burial process and do not require vaults.
People who choose green burials don’t use concrete vaults, traditional coffins with metalwork or any embalming fluids.
Instead, the body is wrapped in bio-degradable shrouds or placed in a pine coffin and laid to rest where it can decompose and become part of the earth.
In a green burial ceremony, every detail to ensure it is environmentally friendly is carried out, from removing all non-bio-degradable objects to placing a branch in an open grave site to allow critters to escape before the soil is ‘replanted’, the result is a cemetery that resembles a typical forest more than a final resting place.


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