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Options, Opportunities and Openings: The Impacts of Greening your Death

departure directions Jun 04, 2018

Whether you have days or decades to live, options, opportunities and openings are the promise of greening your death, in particular what happens to you after you die. 

What is it about greening your death that matters most?

Nowadays, we have a tendency to get very technical when considering the environmental impact of, well, just about anything. Try backing up a little bit to a pause and ponder. Why? Why does greening your death matter to you or, more specifically, what is it about greening your death that matters most?

If we better understand our “why” we’re more capable of identifying and manifesting the “what” and the “how”, while keeping the big picture in mind. At a workshop on this topic, we asked participants this question and gave them some set responses from which to choose. 

What is it about greening YOUR death that matters most?

  • Minimizing environmental degradation
  • Augmenting ecological restoration
  • Land conservation
  • Nourishing/and or fuelling other life
  • Spiritual values
  • Other

What we heard was that the simple act of asking this question opened up a torrent of unexpected thoughts and feelings about all sorts of things including our personal and collective:

  • relationship and history with religion
  • emerging spiritual practices (that may or may not be associated with any religion)
  • family traditions
  • social and political activism
  • values alignment
  • personal integrity
  • life philosophies
  • our place in the natural world

We also played a TRUE or FALSE Greening Your Death Quiz as a way to get into some of the details and realities of current after-death care practices where we live in Vancouver, Canada. Note, because legislation governing funeral and cemetery services varies between countries and jurisdictions, we can’t say what is true or false for where you call home.

Here’s few excerpts from the quiz. The answers are at the bottom of the article. 


  1. Caskets/ containers can be made of reclaimed wood.
  2. Some type of green burial is available in most cities in Canada.
  3. In Greater Vancouver it’s possible to reuse a burial plot for many generations.
  4. Some (flame-based) cremation retorts (machines) burn more efficiently than others.
  5. Cremated remains provide good nutrition for growing trees.
  6. Only certified funeral providers can transport dead people in their vehicles.

Donating your organs or your whole body, if circumstances allow for these wishes to be honoured, are ways to nurture other life and thus—for some people—a way to green their death. To learn more about these options search for your local transplant or body donation programs.

Check out these links to nonprofit organizations that exist to educate, advocate and promote options for greening your death, including but not exclusively, green burial.  

Green Burial Society of Canada

Green Burial Council North America

Natural Death Centre – Association of Natural Burial Grounds UK

Natural Death Care Centre Australia

Finally, local regulatory bodies and funeral consumer alliance nonprofits exist to protect and educate you as a consumer and to regulate the funeral, cemetery and crematorium sectors. There is no shortage of information available, its up to us to educate and empower ourselves.

What about you?

What is it about greening your death that matters most?