How We Work to "Get it Green" - encouraging natural steps

Farmers_field_burial_ground_375There's a lot to be learned in the "field" of natural burial, and a huge amount of it is just common sense (and paying attention to those who've done this for awhile now...)

Thankfully, the UK's woodland burial movement has been going strong for over 30 years, and the woven coffins offered by the Natural Burial Company are made by the suppliers who started the UK movement. Their innovative and beautiful designs are tried and tested, buried in the UK's more than 200 woodland burial sites, and now offered for sale by many funeral directors there.

When we sell quality woven coffins and urns made from sustainably produced natural materials and tell the stories of the artisan companies who make them, we help build the demand for coffins that biodegrade and cemeteries that offer more natural "places to go."  

When we encourage funeral directors to adopt methods that reduce the use of formaldehyde and other prep-room toxins, forego embalming, lighten up on the plastic, and make biodegradable coffins available to their families, we help build the funeral service providers' ability offer those options.  

And when we counsel existing cemeteries in how to go "vault-free," lower their resource and pesticide use, and transition to living memorials, we help spread the ideas that open the way for a more natural end-of-life for us, and habitat for everyone - and everything - else.

We think it's important to learn from others,including natural burial pioneers in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Sweden, and elsewhere. Ken West's new book, A Guide to Natural Burial, is the MUST HAVE primer for natural burial and natural funeral instruction. We also recommend spending some time exploring the stories in the ALTERNATIVE FUNERAL MONITOR as well as the books in our ONLINE BOOK SHELF

Customized handmade paper EcopodIf you're a producer who wishes to sell through our online store we look for some special things when we source products. We want items that are produced at lower scales of technology than what's currently in use in the conventional funeral business, from renewable or recycled resources, and naturally biodegradable.

Since almost 90% of the caskets sold for burial in the USA today are some variant of stamped steel or rainforest hardwood, we know that means most of our products, handmade from willow, bamboo, paper, wood, and other natural fibers, qualify for "greener" right off the bat!

Img0203 But that's not all of it: If we sell your product, we'll want to know where it's made, who makes it,  how many hands it passes through before it gets to us, how far it travels, and other things like that.

We look for functional burial goods that are made from natural, recycled or renewable materials, biodegrade quickly, have lower energy inputs in production, minimize toxins, diversify materials, preserve artisan skills, possess excellence in design, solve problems creatively, and are at appropriate scale.

"Green" Claims: If your item's destined for burial, it needs to be biodegradable in order for us to label it as such. If it will go in a crematory, it should be of all natural materials (staples and nails are ok - they can be recovered with a magnet later). And if you make any of the "green claims" protected by the FTC, we'll work with you to make sure you're coming into compliance with their  "Green Guides" requirements. Above all, your "green seal" MUST meet with the FTC's Endorsement Guidelines or we won't use it on our website or in our materials.

We may even visit your workshop at some point and check out your goods - we'll certainly get to know you through conversations and interviews, because our customers want to know that WE know you! One great place to start is to become a member of Green America.

No matter where you are in the process, producers and service providers alike would benefit from learning the Natural Step Principles and bringing their firms into alignment with those over time. Incremental improvements will go a long way toward both improving the environment and creating a level competitive field.

The Natural Step Principles:

  • Substances from the earth's crust cannot systematically increase in the biosphere
  • Substances produced by society cannot systematically increase in the biosphere
  • The physical basis for the productivity and diversity of nature must not be systematically destroyed
  • There must be fair and efficient use of resources to meet human needs