Environmentally Friendly End-of-Life Choices

Dust to Dust with the Death Doula – August 13, 2013, Green Convene Community Meeting

In one peaceful hour with Diane Walker a myriad of items came to mind that we all should address before we die – from our fear of death to planning end of life ceremonies in responsible ways.  And since, as Diane says, we are ALL terminal, this topic is always apropos.

Rev. Diane Walker is, among many things, a life coach.  But, you could also call her a death coach.  She specializes in helping people navigate through life’s difficult transitions.  She lovingly guides the recently diagnosed, the elderly, and their family members through planning and officiating funeral services.  She also works with perfectly healthy folks and their families to plan end-of-life celebrations and other events.  Perhaps most endearing is her ability to give people the skills needed to approach this sacred time with courage and peace – to let go of the fear in order to live with more joy.

Also fascinating, and most apt to our Green Convene mission, is Diane’s knowledge about the funeral system in America, specifically in Kentucky.  Whatever she charges for her services, you are almost guaranteed to save in unnecessary funeral expenses.  Diane is a holistic lady, and conserving resources comes very naturally to her.  If you so desire, Diane can help you design a funeral that has minimal environmental impact.  Did you know that you do not have to be embalmed, that you are allowed to stay with your loved one’s remains for several hours before they need to be picked up, that traditional burials have a major negative impact on our environment?  Embalming fluid is usually comprised of the carcinogen chemical formaldehyde and other hazardous chemicals, which has been proven to pose health risks in funeral homes.  Each year, cemeteries across the States bury over 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid.  And, while concrete and metal in vaults may be considered “natural” to some, manufacturing and transporting them uses a tremendous amount of energy and causes enormous carbon emissions.  Casket manufacturers are listed on the EPA’s top 50 hazardous waste generators list due to chemicals used in the protective finish sprayed on the caskets.  Cremation uses far fewer resources than almost any other option, but it certainly has an environmental impact. Crematoria alone contribute .02% of the global emission of dioxins and furans.  Have you noticed that our cemeteries are overbooked and the new ones are being built in solely utilitarian ways?  They no longer resemble restful parks, but overgrown, crammed cities where all nearly all the green is replaced by concrete.  Does this honor you?

So, what to do with your earthly remains in order to least impact the Earth?  The sanitation and preservation of a corpse can almost always take place without the use of chemicals.  Apparently this is done in just about every nation in the world, with the exception of the US, Canada and a few others.  And, according to Diane Walker, we have options here – it’s just a matter of knowing what they are and how to get them.  While Diane is currently busy consulting based on our current options in Kentucky, her future mission includes a place where she can care for the dead with minimal environmental impact, and further the conservation of natural resources by reducing carbon emissions and the stewardship of a preserved natural area – a green cemetery with green burial options.  Imagine going to visit your loved one’s resting place – their pure body was laid into the dirt, a tree is planted above the burial spot – over the years you watch it grow, along with all the others, and eventually the land becomes a dense forest sprung from the bounties of life’s rich soil.  Not so scary after all….

The Green Convene will keep you informed of Diane’s progress.  Please contact Rev. Diane Walker at 548-5377 for a consultation.