Today we visited Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley, one of the country's handful of green cemeteries. Green burial is so simple - no embalming fluid, no concrete vault, no elaborate grounds. You're simply put in the earth, either in a shroud, a pine box or a wicker casket, on a hillside - no chemicals, no bulldozers. The graves are dug by hand - takes 5 guys a few hours. When the land is "full," it will be turned over to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, whose lands are adjacent to the cemetery, and put back into permanent parkland. For now, it's being restored, eucalyptus trees removed, native plants reintroduced.
I haven't independently confirmed these stats, but this is what we learned in the presentation before our tour of the grounds.
In one year, in the US, conventional burials result in the burying of:
- 30 million tons of hardwood
- 104 tons of steel
- 2,700 tons of copper/bronze
- 1.6 million tons of concrete
- 827,000 gallons of embalming fluid
This is every single year. The figures on cremation are equally disturbing. Again, I haven't doublechecked this on my own, but we heard that the energy required to burn up one body could power a car for 4,300 miles. If that's true, it's crazy!
For me, the only option I can consider for the disposition of my dead body is one that allows me to be returned to the earth, to be composted. For this reason, I'm very seriously considering buying a plot ahead of time - one I could share with Joe, in the shadow of Mt. Tam. There is a lot more to learn about this subject, but I was tremendously excited to think that I really could find a way to actually decompose, feed the earth, in a way consistent with my values and how I live my life.
For more info about green burial, go to: http://www.greenburials.org/
For more info on Fernwood Cemetery, http://foreverfernwood.com/index.html