Photo from KORU archives
Old Habits Die Well: Choosing Eco-Friendly Caskets & Shrouds
It’s hard to deny that we are creatures of habit. There’s comfort, security and even pleasure in our habits: enjoying a fine sip of single malt whiskey at the end of a busy work week, sweating it out as you grind through 45 minutes of your weekly exercise regimen, fresh sheets on the bed to kick off a new week.
It is not surprising to note then, that our habits have also spilled into our end of life choices. Perhaps we don’t think of them as habits, as, thankfully, most of us don’t experience the death of someone close to us on a regular basis. However, the choices that we make have been so heavily influenced by our friends, family and marketing forces, that regardless of the numbers of encounters of dealing with end of life matters, we have become habitualized in making our “final” decisions.
A prime example of our funeral related conventions are our choice of caskets or coffins. As a funeral director for almost two decades, I have heard many different explanations of why a person or family is choosing a casket for their person who has died: to match what the pre-deceased spouse was buried in, to appease the living with a “suitable” display, to choose something affordable. All of those are valid justifications and frankly, if it helps the bereaved feel a little less raw about the entire situation, then why not?
There is, however, a new habit that we could start to form and that is to choose a casket, coffin or shroud based on its sustainability merits.
What if we asked ourselves:
- Where was this casket made? Was it made by a local craftsperson or in a large foreign factory and shipped to our community?
- How was it made? Have rare hardwoods been used in its construction or semi-precious metals?
- Are the materials used eco-friendly? Is the wood from a renewable source?
- Can we choose a green burial and use something other than a casket or coffin, such as a natural fibre shroud or cloth covering?
As with many industries, trends tend to repeat themselves over time and the end of life field is no different. What was the standard choice of casket, coffin or shroud when my Gramma was a young girl (incidentally, she is 103 years old!) were locally made, naturally finished caskets and shrouds made from whatever material was at hand. Today, we are seeing a resurgence of people seeking out burial and cremation caskets and shrouds that better reflect their eco-friendly life values when dealing with death matters.
Gramma at 100 yrs