← Back to Blog
end of life care planning checklist

Death+ Sustainability: Opportunities to Heal Our Hearts and Our Planet

conscious contemplation departure directions Mar 08, 2019

Hope or heartache? We’re willing to bet that you move between the two when you experience and observe how we humans are living our finite lives on this precious planet.

People are creative, courageous and kind. These virtues fuel countless examples of local and global initiatives, policies and practices that generate hope and a sense of possibility for all life on earth.

At the same time, as a species we are living beyond our planetary means and our dominant patterns of production, consumption and relationship have put the diversity of life, including ourselves, at risk of destruction. This is heartbreaking.

How we care for each other after we die holds promise for healing our hearts and our planet.  

Some day, one day, we’re each going to die. When you die, something has to happen with you, your body, your corpse or however you are comfortable referring to the physical aspect of the deceased you. There’s a legal requirement to “dispose” of or “lay to rest” our dead bodies.

If you’re living your life mindful of how your daily activities impact our planet, then you’ll likely be concerned about the ecological impact you make after you die. The two most readily available choices are flame-based cremation and full-body burial. There are other opportunities you may not be aware of within those two choices, and there are a handful of other options in development or available now in some areas. Examples include:

  • Green, natural, and conservation burial options are growing around the world.
  • Grave reuse, direct-earth and shroud-only burial are increasingly available to all descendants at some cemeteries.
  • Bio-cremation, aka water cremation, green cremation or alkaline hydrolysis has limited and growing availability in North America.
  • Human composting, aka natural organic reduction is a new, legally approved form of final disposition in Washington state and under consideration in other US jurisdictions.
  • Installations of suspended memorial vessels known as Constellation Parks are in development at Columbia University’s DeathLab.

It’s time to close the gap between how we live and how we die.

According to the conventional understanding, sustainability occurs when the three spheres of environment, society and economy overlap. When it comes to our after-death care, including how we’ll be laid to rest, the key is to find that sweet spot between what’s important to you and those you leave behind and what’s possible.

In the end, what we want may not be possible. But we can aspire to our ideals by exploring what’s important, declaring what you want, learning what’s possible and getting  involved to make it happen.


What about you?

What’s your plan for your planet-friendly after-death care?