Green burials

Philocrites blogs about ecological burials, and I was going to write about this too because of how they were featured in the third-to-last installment of Six Feet Under last week. Poor Nate. But he is buried in a nice grove. In real life, a natural piece of field stone, discretely engraved, might mark the grave. Or not.

I don’t (or didn’t) think of eco-burials as that geeky or yuppified, but (with Brenda) as some kind of Quaker thing, like cremation is some kind of Unitarian Universalist thing. The green burial industry is more advanced in Europe — years ago I read the French have the option of refrigerated biers, to elimate the need for embalming — and until things change more, I’d recommend the book (not online) Caring for Your Own Dead. I have an older edition around here somewhere — but laws change, get the newest edition — and it makes for an endearing even pastoral read.

I wonder if a frequent reader, familiar with Indiana and Ohio Quakers, would care to comment as that’s a hotbed of home burial. Hint.

But I think I’ll stick to cremation and a columbarium.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I’ve seen a huge variety of Quaker burials. Some are green. Some just cost a ton of money. In fact the first one I officiated in Muncie was a very plain (but pricey) entombment. But that gal also left the church about $200K. Wealthy Quakers often have a tendency to go plain looking, but to spend tons on high quality material.

    I haven’t seen much of home burial in these parts, and in general it may be illegal. The burial industry is fairly regulated in Indiana and Ohio. What I have seen in older Quaker communities, ESPECIALLY those with rural origins, are burial grounds near the local meetinghouse. Often plots are available at little or no cost to members, and you get a plain gray stone marker. I’ve seen Moravian churches and cemetaries that are simmilar.

    If a Quaker meeting disbands there is often much hand-wringing about what to do with the burial grounds. Sometimes a family will buy the old meetinghouse as a family chapel, and promise to keep up the burial grounds. There are a few simmilar setups in old, rural Universalist communities in the Mid-West. I’ve also heard of simmilar things in the South, but have never visited an old Universalist cemetary in the South.

  2. I’m less interested in politically correct corpses or green funerals than I am in the work of Crossings–family-based after-death care. It is certainly move involved, but claims a sense of the sacred in preparing your loved one’s body for burial. (It also happens to be cheaper, but I don’t recommend it as a cost-cutter.)

  3. True, not a cost cutter and I’d rather let someone with experience take care of my corpse and it isn’t exactly an amateur’s skill in these parts. That said, I think the book I quoted is good for laying out some options that might not otherwise be considered. (A fieldstone marker, for instance.) Again, give me cremation and a Wedgewood urn, to be moved to a columbarium on Hubby’s demise (should I go first.)

    Have you worked directly with Crossings, Jim?

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