Like steaks for dining, green coffins are an investment in legacy, environmental sustainability and future security. They’re also a conversation starter. On Feb. 6, at a free discussion at Four Corners coffee shop (5015 Connecticut Ave. NW), two Washington groups, the Green Burial Council and the International Green Burial Society, will present a new take on green burials.
The green funeral industry has seen an upswing in recent years, with a rise in cemetery conversions to a greener space — 101 green cemeteries were established in 2009.
Now, the two groups are planning to bring up the green coffin conversation, and they’re hoping to bring you along for the ride. The event, organized by the DC Green Burial Council, will focus on wedding caskets, natural coffin designs and portable green coffins that can be stored in the car or freezer.
Eight green coffins have been built in recent years, including two that are portable — from Farex, a Maryland-based company that began selling eco-friendly coffins in 2009. The company’s VP of marketing and public relations, Tom Philips, says that both the portable coffins and caskets are environmentally conscious, but they don’t actually cost more to maintain than, say, a $4,000 casket.
“Each of the eco-bunkers actually generate energy from the waste heat generated from the wood inside and also from the CO2 released by decomposition in the environment when the coffins decompose,” he says.
Though Philips considers the portable coffins ideal for weddings, he says they work particularly well for burials: You can keep your urn in the trunk, bury it in the trunk and simply remove it when you want to use it.
However, he says that the costs for a portable coffins might outweigh the discounts for purchasing a natural one, since its piney, brown casing can’t be stained or decayed — meaning it can’t be resealed and can’t retain an idea of its original color.
Still, he says that the coffins are a healthy investment, especially for those who want to conserve the earth, but haven’t had the time to think through how their funeral can stand out and give a purpose to the simple act of parting with their loved ones.
“If you want to have a special earth-sculptural occasion with a feature buried with you,” he says, “you can bring it all the way to the grave and it will last forever.”
Though there is no concrete statistic on the number of green burials, the Green Burial Council says it’s no secret that more are being desired.
“The green burial movement has hit a tipping point,” founder Rea Mitchell says. “People are now considering it as a clean and beautiful way to signify a life well-lived.”
But what can you bring to the table? According to the Green Burial Council, most of these conventions are found in the West:
Permanent bamboo-lined coffin #1.
Glass-topped bier designed to reflect the tree-changing season of spring.
Natural-looking casket designed to evoke deep reflection, rather than the traditional burial gown.
Landscape of bamboo swaying in the wind.
* W.A. McKinney Park casket: Not a 3-D printed object, but an augmented reality experience that gives users a three-dimensional view of the cemetery’s deep pool.
According to David Mendelson, one of the leading meditation teachers in Washington, D.C., and the director of the Washington Unitarian Church, it’s important to have a space that is spacious, open and echoing so that your living space is not forgotten during your burial.
Mendelson advises going for something different from the traditional casket, but not trying to distill your ideas into a simple box or flower-filled arrangement. A good casket can be used again for other purposes.
He says to think of it as a living artifact that will keep its identity for years to come — just like your treasure chest.
“It might seem corny, but it’s a good way to approach it,” he says. “The way you play with your money is the same way you should play with the way you dispose of your physical form.”
Call 202-506-3559 to reserve a spot.