Biodegradable Coffins, "Composting At Its Best"

Biodegradable coffins allow you to rest in peace without putting a permanent dent in the planet or your wallet.

Cremation was long considered more environmentally friendly than burials in graveyards, but its use of fossil fuels has raised concerns.

Eco-friendly burials have been popular in Britain for years, but industry experts say it’s starting to catch on in the U.S., where “green” cemeteries hosting natural burials have sprouted up in California, Florida, New York, South Carolina and Texas.

The majority of eco-friendly burial products come from overseas – including the Ecopod, which is made in the United Kingdom – although there are a few domestic makers. Options range from natural-fiber shrouds to fair-trade bamboo caskets lined with unbleached cotton. There are also more traditional-looking handcrafted coffins made of wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Basic cardboard models sell for as little as $100, and probably fold neatly for storage in your basement. Snazzier hand-painted models fetch up to $3,000.

Protecting the earth after death: Biodegradable coffins [AP]
(Photo: Edward All ?s)

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  1. mir777 says:

    I should know this, but aren’t Jewish coffins ‘green?’ (ie, plain wooden boxes).

  2. nequam says:

    Sounds like a nice idea, but a major reason for concrete vaults (required in many cemeteries) is to prevent subsidence, which is a real hazard. I worked in a cemetery when I was in college. In the older section, in which vaults had not been required, it was a frequent event for the ground to collapse under a visitor’s (or worker’s) foot. Not only is injury possible, but it is creepy as hell.

  3. homerjay says:

    @nequam: that must be SO freaky….

  4. snoop-blog says:

    can’t wait for that cemetary to flood.

  5. youbastid says:

    @mir777: I’ve never heard of that. Of the many Jewish relatives I’ve witnessed buried, only one was in a pine box. The rest were regular, fancy caskets.

  6. MercuryPDX says:

    I’m leaning more towards cremation. Does it really take more fossil fuel to burn a corpse to ash than traditional burial methods? (ie. hearse to the funeral home for the wake, then the cemetery… which has acres of lawn to mow and other upkeep.)

  7. I would choose to be made into Soylent Green.

    http://www.tian.cc

  8. forgottenpassword says:

    if you want to top it why not just donate your body to science or to a forensic school where they let bodies decompose in the open to study decomposition & insects’ effect on the body etc. etc..

    Just burn my body & throw the ashes somewhere. The hell with “death carbon footprints” .

  9. snoop-blog says:

    i want to be cremated and have my ashes put in jessica simpson lotion. TMI? sorry.

  10. ClayS says:

    According to Jewish law, coffins are made of wood, with no metal fasteners used. The concept is that the body should decompose uninhibited, so very thick wood is avoided. Embalming is not permitted for that same reason.

  11. clevershark says:

    I was thinking of cremation, but donating my body to a body farm would be so much cooler!

  12. mmcnary says:

    OK, I’ll say it.

    I’m donating my body to science fiction…

  13. warf0x0r says:

    I’d like my body to be flung into space, there’s always the possibility that some alien race reanimates me and keeps me as a pet. Which would mean I could spend the rest of existence eating, crapping, and sleeping. Ah, bliss…

    Unless it was alien Michael Vick and I was forced to fight to the death against other aliens in an underground alien fighting ring. Basically like a combination of Predator and Gladiator… yeah…

  14. ColoradoShark says:

    @mir777: Jewish coffins are supposed to be simple wood boxes without any preservatives and minimal decoration. This is probably honored more often than no birth control for Catholics.

    Please, let’s not get into a religious war about this. Americans, at least, are very cafeteria style about their religions. I wonder if other countries treat religion similarly.

  15. chili_dog says:

    Just throw me in the river.

  16. I think people who kill their relatives would like this option to prohibit the CSI’s from exhuming the body. I think it is Japan which buries the bodies, digs them up after a year, dries the bones, and then inter those in boxes in a big round building’s inner walls. I saw it on Ripley’s Believe It or Not w/Jack Palance.

  17. mir777 says:

    @coloradoshark:

    It definitely wasn’t meant to start a religious war. Just a nod to the practicality of my peeps is all.

    My brother in law is buried in a mausoleum. That gives me the willies – die, get stuck into a stone wall inside a heavy box. Those require tons of maintenance and air conditioning.

  18. vaxman says:

    When you die, do you really need a coffin? as horrible as it sounds to some, why waste the resources and money on a box that you’ll never see or get to consiously use.

    I want my body put in a mountain valley, to rot or be eaten by animals that can use the meat more than I can (Lets face it, once i’m dead i don’t need it no more…) I don’t want to rot in a city… enough stench of rot there already…

  19. orielbean says:

    I want to be cremated and spread into jars of Coffeemate around the world. That would be pimp.

  20. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    When I found out who much it costs to bury someone, I was appalled… $4000 caskets! $800 flowers! What a racket.

    Funerals are for the living, not the dead.

  21. Fujikopez says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: “Second burial” is practiced in other cultures, too. Ancient Jews in the time of Jesus did this. (Yay, History Channel.)

    I think that buying my coffin ahead of time and keeping it in my basement, while practical, is kinda creepy.

  22. shanaynay says:

    @Fujikopez: indeed. I’d do it if my family wouldn’t think I was crazy. Can you imagine? Yeah, it’s over there, in one of the boxes behind my coffin…. Might be worth it, just for the amusement value.

    The reason I don’t favor cremation is that I’d rather decompose naturally and return to the earth. But cemeteries take up a lot of space, and a lot of chemicals go into keeping that grass green and purty. I might be most down with the whole dump-me-in-a-valley thing. But can I see my kids being okay with doing that? Will have to work on raising them twisted!

  23. Martha_Jones says:

    @vaxman: What you are suggesting is 100% illegal.

  24. BrockBrockman says:

    Ummm … am I the only one worried about how this affects the impending zombie threat?

  25. newspapersaredead says:

    I want to be buried like Lenin. I may not be a world leader, but I’m not responsible for the murder of millions either. I think I deserve it!

  26. EtherealStrife says:

    I kinda like the anonymous green route (body buried in some random place, a la Lisa), or even left in the open somewhere remote.
    I’d only consider a funeral if kids came into the picture.

    @BrockBrockman: Hippie environmentalist vegetarians can’t eat brains. They’d all starve.

    @Martha_Jones: So arrest me. Just remember to bring a bag. *cough*
    I hike enough to make it a plausible body dump. When the rangers/hikers find my jaw or skull I’m sure the dumper can squeeze out a few tears and a gasp of horror.

  27. Martha_Jones says:

    @EtherealStrife: It wouldn’t be you as you would be dead. You’d be asking the people you love the most to steal your body, then bury you illegally (which by the way would be super unpleasant as your body would be bloated and stink to high hell.)

  28. Jesse in Japan says:

    When I die, I want to be buried in a gold sarcophagus surrounded by treasure in an enormous pyramid.

    Either that, or burial at sea.

  29. nardo218 says:

    @homerjay: My foot went through the ground in a cemetery once, and my friend and I went screaming back to the gate. I thought an animal had burrowed too close to the surface; gee, thanks for telling me I fell into a GRAVE.

  30. nardo218 says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: That’s a middle eastern tradition from Biblical times.

  31. nardo218 says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: Oh, and most Japanese people cremate their dead.

  32. Kevin Cotter says:

    People are just dying to get into these cemeteries!

  33. teh says:

    @mir777, @ColoradoShark: Plain wooden caskets yes, but those are often contained inside metal boxes. While I love the idea of minimizing our effect on the environment by using simple caskets, you also need to stop embalming the bodies.

  34. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Tibetan Sky Burial for me, please.
    Or send my body down the Ganges.

  35. Jesse in Japan says:

    @nardo218: Yes, Japanese people do burn their dead, but they still will spend 2 to 4 thousand dollars (that’s dollars) on a coffin which they incinerate with the body. If you think funerals in America are expensive, you wouldn’t even believe what it’s like in Japan.

  36. Electroqueen says:

    Freaky, I just got this flashback to Heroes, where Hiro did something totally bad@$$. Burying Adam alive. I guess he’ll be back because he got buried in a biodegradable coffin.

    I’ll just cryogenically freeze my head until they invent that head in a jar.

  37. medic78 says:

    My grandfather was actually buried in one of the carboard ones back in 1992. It’s what he wanted, since he was a nature nut who didn’t want to contaminate the ground if he could help it, and he also didn’t want us to spend a ton on a box that was just going to sit in the ground. It wasn’t too bad, it’s just a box afterall.

  38. Trai_Dep says:

    What, no John Wayne Gacy DIY basement-remodeling approach?

    It’s a conspiracy, I tell ya. A conspiracy!

  39. edsimpson says:

    Well I just LOVE that photo!

  40. dirtleg says:

    I had an uncle that was a pioneer of sorts, in the field of conservation. He had arranged, with his daughters help, for his body to be buried with no chemical treatments of any kind, in a cardboard burial box and in a place that was conducive to a speedy breakdown of the biological components of the human body. I know very little of the details, but I was very proud of him at his funeral which was attended by many of his “green” friends. He spent his latter years as a beekeeper and staunch advocate of recycling, pollution control and conservation. His adult life was as a photographer, weddings and portraits, and as a city councilman for many years in his home town. He started one of the first city sponsored recycling programs many years before it was fashionable (late sixties). The modern facility that is there today bares his name on a memorial plaque.
    Dude was many years ahead of his time and taught me a lot about caring for the earth and what we leave behind for our children and following generations. I hope to follow his example upon my death and leave as small a footprint on the planet as I can. I’m just sayin’, think about it.

  41. ssvarc says:

    As someone who actually built Jewish coffins for a period, I can confirm what Clays posted above. Plain wood coffins with no metal fasteners. I used sanded plywood and dowels.

  42. ltlbbynthn says:

    coffins in my family have been pine boxes my uncle hammers together in the few days after our loved ones die. And they’re not embalmed. how disgustingly bad for the planet can formaldehyde be?