Green Caskets – Natural Coffins & Caskets
If you decide to opt for a natural, green burial there are several options available in terms of purchasing, or indeed making, a natural, organic burial container. The whole idea with a green burial is that the body and container can decompose in a natural manner. In years to come all that should remain at the burial site is the skeleton of the deceased gently encased in the earth. No steel, no concrete, no toxic embalming fluids leaking into the water table. Just basically returning to the natural way that we used to bury our dead over a century ago.
In the United States there are now 41 sites in 26 states. Most natural burial sites are un-landscaped woodland and meadow areas where bodies are inconspicuously buried among natural vegetation. In many cases some form of natural stone markers or GPS coordinates are used to designate and mark out the gravesite. You can build your own burial container or coffin from wood, bamboo, wool or linen. Or you can purchase a natural coffin or casket from one of several green casket manufacturers.
Types of green caskets
Banana Leaf Caskets
These caskets are made with coiled banana leaves with rattan and seagrass.
These coffins are handmade from bamboo. Bamboo is a truly sustainable material, as once cut at the root, it grows back to full height in 59 days.
These caskets are constructed from rattan and are available in natural (light) color or organically dyed (dark brown) color.
Seagrass is a sturdy, renewable grass that grows in abundance.
Farm-raised, sustainable wood is used to construct wooden caskets. Also cherry or mahogany can be used. Often they are constructed with retractable or removable handles so that there is no metal remaining upon burial.
Wooden caskets appropriate for green burial combine the look and feel of a traditional casket with an eco friendly approach to construction and are an attractive choice for those who find comfort in familiarity. Wood caskets approved by the Green Burial Council contain no metal, or at least a very minimal amount (some use metal screws), and do not use toxic stains or sealants. Many are also made by hand versus in a large manufacturing plant, such as the thousands sold every day at most funeral homes. Most wooden caskets you will find at a funeral home are made of exotic and precious trees, leading to deforestation; the amount of wood used each year in the U.S. to construct wooden caskets is 4 MILLION acres of forest, which is enough wood to construct 4.6 million single family homes. Pine trees are a wonderful alternative. They are a sustainable and renewable choice based on their speed of growth and ability to replant and they are abundant in the U.S.
WOOD CASKET OPTIONS
When it comes to wood caskets, choose pine if it’s available, and go local if you can and support a local woodworker. Although many wood caskets use a small amount of metal screws or nails for construction, some woodworkers are skilled in the dovetail method, which is a joinery method that brings wooden edges together without using nails or screws. Styles of wood caskets vary from a simple rectangle, the hexagonal coffin shape, to ones you would typically find at a funeral home with a domed lid.
WOOD CASKET COST Avg. Depending on how elaborately built
$450-$1800 Simple to $4,000 elaborate
Small child/infant coffins can be made from organic fabric and cording. They are available in a variety of colors using natural dyes and fabrics such as 100% silk and 100% Organic cotton, 100% Virgin Wool or Linen
Avg. Cost ranges from $100- $600
Carboard Casket- Avg. Cost: $300- $500
I’m imagining all the raised eyebrows and funny thoughts when people first hear the words “cardboard coffin.” It’s easy to think that cardboard = cheap, but that’s simply not the case with the custom designed coffins made specifically for green burial from Mourning Dove Studio. Carol Motley, who is passionate about green burial, spent years designing a sturdy biodegradable coffin manufactured in “a factory that uses environmentally sustainable practices and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The cardboard is made with a bleach-free process, using 25-35% recycled material and a starch-based adhesive. No metal, no toxins.” Other funeral homes carry cardboard coffins but we assure you, there is no comparison. The ones you can purchase from funeral homes are less expensive, although in our experience, not as stable when transporting, and they are processed with bleach and other chemicals. The coffins made by Mourning Dove Studios are sturdy, well made, and environmentally friendly. They measure up to 6’2” and carry up to 350 pounds and can be used for both burial and cremation.
So what’s so special about a cardboard coffin anyway? You can personalize them. They can be painted, notes and last words to loved ones can be written on them, pictures with your memories can be decoupaged onto them. One of the essential practices for processing grief is performing rituals and acts of love – and the time and love put into personalizing a cardboard coffin gives people the opportunity to perform an act of love and recall memories of a loved one as notes are written or pictures are decoupaged onto the coffin. This is a wonderful opportunity for children to be involved in a way that lets them express their love and gratitude without feeling set aside to simply observe adults taking care of death. Watch this video to learn more about the inspiration behind these coffins.
What is the cost of a green casket?
If you decide to purchase a readymade or custom green coffin you can expect to pay anything up from $500.00, plus a small shipping fee if shipping is required.
Ark Wood Caskets retails a flat-packed, easy to assemble (6 pieces) wooden casket at $469 + shipping.
Of course you can construct your own green casket if you have sufficient woodworking skills. This could mean that your casket should cost under $100. Alternatively you may choose to use a linen shroud, which will also cost under $100 if you purchase the material and the family constructs the shroud.
Personalizing a natural coffin or casket
A unique aspect of constructing a simple wooden or linen burial container is that you can choose to have family and friends decorate it with personal messages using environmentally friendly pens or paints.
Whatever kind of green casket you decide upon, you can be sure that you are doing something ethical and sustainable, kind to the environment and your pocket!