Funeral Association Scaring People Away From Green Burials?

Funeral homes are being scared away from “green” burial options by an indemnification form the National Funeral Directors Association included in one of their recent magazine issues, according to an open letter posted on Funeral Consumers Alliance. The language basically suggests that if you don’t use mainstream funeral methods, in terms of the embalming and type of coffin used, you won’t be able to show grandma because she’ll be all rotted, the grave will turn into a sinkhole, and you might not be able to find where the body was buried years down the road. Here’s the specific language they’re using…

5. ADVISORY:
The Green Funeral choice is usually made for environmental reasons and a desire for a simpler disposition. It is an appropriate and meaningful choice for certain families. However, it does preclude certain options and poses several risks that the REPRESENTATIVE has been advised of and is now acknowledging. The REPRESENTATIVE has been advised by the FUNERAL HOME that with a Green Funeral the FUNERAL HOME can provide no assurances regarding the appearance or the condition of DECEDENT’s remains, that there will not be a public visitation or viewing of the DECEDENT, that there are possible health risks posed by handling an unembalmed body, that there can be substantial risks of physical injury to pallbearers from holding, carrying, and transporting a body in a container that may not be designed to hold the weight or to be safely lifted and carried, that burial of the body in a grave plot without an outer burial container may lead to the ground settling and sinking over the grave, that the body may not be able to be disinterred and moved at a later date, and that in later years it may be difficult or impossible to locate the grave due to the lack of a permanent marker or monument.

Over at Funeral Consumers Alliance, they translate this into what they think it really means…

NFDA Lawyer Uses Scare Tactics on Green Burial Customers [Funeral Consumers Alliance]

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  1. Erwos says:

    Meh. I’m glad Jewish funerals are as bare-bones as they are. We wouldn’t even use those simple wooden caskets if they weren’t legally required in most places.

    • oneandone says:

      @Erwos: Ditto.

      Aren’t there quite a few health risks involved with handling an embalmed body as well? I’d personally risk expsoure to infectious agent (which can probably be scrubbed off) vs. toxic chemicals.

      • mariospants says:

        @oneandone: Me? I’d go with the chemicals as the effect will likely be local whereas contact with a bacterium on a corpse can do a fuck of a lot worse. Best still is cremation because if you want to preserve DNA, a snip of hair will do nicely and there’s no logical reason to inter a full-on dressed body in an elegant death parlor casket unless you’re well and truly nuts.

      • SinisterMatt says:

        @oneandone:

        Suddenly that song “Send Me to Glory in a Glad Bag” comes to mind…

        lyrics here:
        [sniff.numachi.com]

        @johnarlington:

        That’s what I was thinking. What if you keep the body in a morgue freezer until you have the funeral? I am not a expert in decomposition (who is, really?), but I would imagine that since it involves bacteria and so forth that freezing would slow down the process significantly. Then, on the day of the funeral/burial, pull the body out take it to the service and then bury it. If it’s done fast enough, severe decomposition should not be an issue. Of course, for that, you would have to have lots of freezers around.

        Cheers!

    • chiieddy says:

      @Erwos: Agreed. The whole idea of wanting to view someone who’s dead sort of wigs me out. Nice, closed casket is my ideal.

  2. opsomath says:

    A significant goal of mine by the time my wife and I are middle aged is to find a way around the laws that prevent your family from burying you on your own property. I had a friend just lose her father to cancer, and the stories she told of the greed and insensitivity of the funeral home (and the amount of cash they had to lay out even though they elected to cremate) were just horrifying.

    I want to be laid to rest in my own land, slowly encouraging the oak tree which my descendants or college buddies or whatever will plant over my grave. Why would anyone want to be buried in a sterile golf course and pay thousands of dollars for the privilege?

    This opinion is reinforced by the walks I used to take near a large Atlanta cemetery. You could hike along the edge of their land and find the piles of headstones they had bulldozed out of the way to make room for more. What a great way to spend six or seven grand, huh?

    • Gman says:

      @opsomath: “You could hike along the edge of their land and find the piles of headstones they had bulldozed out of the way to make room for more. What a great way to spend six or seven grand, huh?”

      You may be right. But I know in the case of my grandparents, they did that because they did not die at the same time. So when my grandfather died a year after my grandmother, they had to toss out the old headstone and put in a new one with both names on it.

      • chiieddy says:

        @G99: My grandmother simply purchased a double headstone and had we her name added when we had her unveiling (one year after death)

  3. Gman says:

    yah. I’m with Erwos. I have always found the “viewing” aspect of other burials kind of scary.
    And I have never understood the whole several thousand dollars for a casket thing.
    Just put me in a simple, cheap as anything box and let me be.

    Just don’t forget to leave the light on and a few magazines in case I get bored in the purgatory waiting room.

  4. HogwartsAlum says:

    They’re trying to scare or freak people into buying a $5000 casket, etc. etc. It’s all about money. If there’s a possibility of exhumation, sure, preserve away. But other than that, I’m not spending that kind of money on my own funeral, which I’m looking into preplanning.

    I’d like to donate myself to the body farm.

  5. randombob says:

    I desire to be cremated & returned to the earth. with the lowest outlay of cash.

    I’m freakin’ dead, what the hell do I care? $1 or $10,000? same to my dead ass!

    Green all the way, baby.

  6. B1663R says:

    This is the biggest load of horseshit ever!!

    bodies take at least a few days to decompose (assuming that the recently deceased is recent)

    there will not be a sinkhole (go check out a grave from 18 whatever, no sinkhole)

    buired at 6′ decomposition and decay are slowed because worms and the like don’t go that deep.

    all cheap caskets can hold, and you don’t always need a pallbearer (that’s why they use the cart)

    typical funeral home scams… if they try that on you say you will abandon the body and let the state cover the costs.

  7. Sparkstalker says:

    The entire funeral industry is a despicable, predatory conglomeration that does nothing but prey on people during times of emotional distress. It just disgusts me.

  8. Parting says:

    Honestly, I don’t see a problem with that disclaimer. Especially in sue-happy USA. That’s only common sense…

    No embalming = natural process of rotting.
    No monument = difficulty to finding the grave years down the road.

    • mike says:

      I’ve never had to go through the funeral process so I’m not sure what the experience is like. But I would think a lot of these problems can be addressed before the person kicks it.

      I am preferring to be cremated, and so does my mom. Not sure why we need a burial or anything.

  9. bmwloco says:

    I lost both my mother and father to cancer. Save the pity; it was years ago. But I had to dispose of both of them.

    Mom made it clear she wanted to be cremated. No problem. We go to the funeral home. This was back in early 1990. We tell the funeral director “cremation”. He tells us we still need a box. I point to one, looking at the price tags, and he blanches (as I’ve pointed at the cheapest). “That’s for paupers funerals”.

    I say “well, why do we need a casket anyway, she’s going to be cremated” “It’s for protection” he says. “For who?” I ask.

    “It’s about AIDS” he says. I just glare at him. What an idiot, how absurdly stupid and vile.

    My sister grabs my arm, her clue to pipe down. She’s 8 months pregnant at the time.

    We select a common box (around $1000…the cheapest apropos…) and then ask about the cremation. He goes into vague detail and then, towards the end, says “…the remains are returned in a fine corrugated box…”

    At this point, my sister starts laughing. “You mean mom’s coming home in a cardboard box?!” she snorted. Her husband worked in the industry. That pushed her button.

    In the end, for $1500, it was done. A total ripoff.

    But nothing like the ride my Dad’s second wife took when she buried him. $18,000 for a “sealed” casket, another $5000 for makeup (he had been a cancer patient for 2 years and she insisted on an open casket – 3 weeks after he died). When it was all said and done, she spent close to $30,000 to plant him.

    The death industry is a one last chance to screw the public out of their money.

    Personally, I’ve written in my will that I’m to be cremated, paid for it in advance. No one collects nothing until a few of my ashes are run through my motorcycles and cars.

    Now that’s disposal.

    • msbask says:

      @bmwloco: I’m 40 years old and (luckily?) know nothing about planning funerals. Are you really telling me you had to spend $1000 for a box that was going to be burned? This is… nauseating. I’m literally feeling ripped off for you.

      If people want to “visit” when I’m dead, they can come to my home and be surrounded by my family and my friends and my things… not some sterile, ugly funeral parlor where my family will have been bilked for thousands and thousands of dollars.

      Does anyone have any suggestions for how to go about planning a ‘green’ funeral in New York?

  10. Parting says:

    And this is nothing compared to graveyards’ laws in QC, one of Canadian provinces. The law says that the cemetery plot is rented for 50 years, not owned. So after 50 years, you can renew the plot rent, or someone might get buried on the same spot. *shudder*

    Some people write in their wills that they want to be buried in other provinces, due to that insanity… Or cremated.

  11. I say burn my body and toss it in a landfill. (That is, unless I do something really important. Then I want a mausoleum and a state funeral.)

    Never quite understood why a dead body needs a 2000-lb head stone, 300-lb casket, and a 12’x6′ plot of land with a view of the ocean.

  12. Notsewfast says:

    I’m going to be cremated and put into a cardboard box wrapped in brown shipping paper and twine. There will be a stamp on the box that says ‘Return to Sender’.

  13. incognit000 says:

    The funeral business revolves around bilking emotionally vulnerable people out of money. It’s a legalized racket and no one has any intention of doing anything about it, since funeral companies have duped everyone into thinking that getting screwed is part of the grieving process. Also, a lot of their customers are old people who will die soon and just want some place to be buried, and so they tend to not care too much if they’re losing a lot of money because they’ll be dead anyway and have much more imminent concerns.

    They hate green burials because they can’t talk you into buying a very expensive casket (which often costs more than a new car) or a very expensive headstone (which is often very quickly and sloppily engraved, because dead people can’t check spelling and dates).

    In my family we’ve all agreed that in the event of death we get donated to a medical school, because then they take care of the cremation and they usually buy a nice urn or something to put you in. Or, in the case of one of my uncles (who was a doctor) they put his ashes in a specimen jar and labeled it with a pig-latin version of his name, as per his request.

    • MissPeacock says:

      @incognit000: Most medical schools usually also have a nice, public memorial service to recognize all the people who donated their bodies. My best friend was in med school and found it to be quite moving. Families are invited as well.

  14. xphilter says:

    so the side effect of a green burial is that our body will decompose? THE HUMANITY! I hope when I’m old I do not become delusional and agree to some ridiculous burial package

  15. DogStarMan says:

    I want an unremarkable death to go along with my unremarkable life.

  16. mariospants says:

    One more thing: In college I spent pretty much every weekend evening technically “embalmed” and no permanent harm came of it.

  17. Etoiles says:

    Hasn’t the funeral industry been at this for… well, ages?

    Jessica Mitford wrote her exposé on it in 1963. And it’s hardly gotten smaller or more cooperative since then.

    I’m with the first poster. My grandfathers died within 8 months of each other. One was Jewish, and the other Roman Catholic. After comparing those services and burials so close together… I’d prefer the Jewish one any day.

  18. BlondeGrlz says:

    My side of the family seems to favor cremation with a memorial service a week or so later when everyone can be there, which is definitely what I want for myself. My husband’s side does the whole open casket viewing, graveside burial thing. This advisory is totally aimed at them and is unnecessarily scary. You’d think there were these giant fields of smelly sinkholes left over from the 300 years of dead people BEFORE modern burials.

  19. suncoast.katie says:

    I’m no expert, but the green funeral they must have in mind must use a cardboard box of some sort? Made of soy? Even a plain wooden box should be able to be carried. Settling did occur in older graveyards. If you happen to see a graveyard with perfectly flat ground, there was probably some filling done.

  20. sketchy says:

    Donate your body.

    Final disposition becomes the problem of the new owner. I assume what doesn’t end up inside other people will end up in a hospital incinerator, or as a crash test dummy.

    • badgeman46 says:

      @sketchy: When you donate your body to medicine, the body is actually returned to the funeral home for final disposition when they are through with it. Depends on what state you live in, but I belive the family has the option to bury or cremate at that point.

    • cerbie says:

      There won’t be a sinkhole, and quite frankly, the rest doesn’t matter, whether true or not. People who care about monuments of themselves have probably already picked out a casket (if they’re smart, with a bell in it, for when we start greeting each other with, “goodbye.”).

      Ah-ha, I do have Angel Dust on me. Sweet. “Toss me inside a Hefty, and put me in the ground” (Dum dum di-da dum-dum-duumm)

      @sketchy: Oh man, my eyes just lit up there. Do they really ever use corpses for crash testing? If so, then my future dead body says, “WANT! But, donation to science in general will work, if they don’t do that.”

  21. badgeman46 says:

    As the son of a funeral director, there are many issues that the public isn’t aware of when it comes to burial. In MA, it is state law that the casket is buried in a concrete vault. I dont know about you, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable about that eco-friendly dead body leaching into my well water. Also, without embalming, the time is severely limited for transport and viewing without seeing some issues, including flies and smells. One of the benefits of a traditional burial in a casket is that it leaves the body available for exhumation if the need arrises.

    • sir_eccles says:

      @badgeman46: But you’re okay with all the embalming fluids leeching into your well water?

    • camille_javal says:

      @badgeman46: But aren’t all the other little dead animals of the forest leaching into your well water? Or floating in it?

    • @badgeman46:

      Its called ice. Part of this movement is to cut the funeral home out the viewing as well. Instead, you lay the body in ice to slow the onset of decomposition. You clean and dress the body and have the viewing on the day following death.

    • marsneedsrabbits says:

      @badgeman46:
      You wrote: As the son of a funeral director, there are many issues that the public isn’t aware of when it comes to burial. In MA, it is state law that the casket is buried in a concrete vault. I dont know about you, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable about that eco-friendly dead body leaching into my well water.

      The federal government says otherwise:
      State laws do not require a vault or liner, and funeral providers may not tell you otherwise.

      So, could you please point to the section of Massachusetts code that legally requires a vault?

      See: Funerals, a Consumer Guide [www.ftc.gov]

      And could you explain what is inherently wrong with bodies “leeching fluid” into well water, since that is what every dead squirrel, deer, dog, and so on does when they die?

      • badgeman46 says:

        @marsneedsrabbits: Here is the law: Mass General Laws PART I. ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT

        TITLE XVI. PUBLIC HEALTH

        CHAPTER 114. CEMETERIES AND BURIALS

        Chapter 114: Section 43M. Permanent disposition of dead bodies or remains

        Section 43M. Except as otherwise provided by law, or in case of a dead body being rightfully carried through or removed from the commonwealth for the purpose of burial or disposition elsewhere, every dead body of a human being dying within the commonwealth, and the remains of any body after dissection therein, shall be decently buried, entombed in a mausoleum, vault or tomb or cremated within a reasonable time after death. The permanent disposition of such bodies or remains shall be by interment in the earth or deposit in a chamber, vault or tomb of a cemetery owned, maintained and operated in accordance with the laws of this commonwealth, by deposit in a crypt of a mausoleum, or by cremation. The remains of a human body after cremation may be deposited in a niche of a columbarium or a crypt of a mausoleum, buried or disposed of in any manner not contrary to law. Each municipality or cemetery corporation shall maintain records which identify the name, if known, of the dead human body or remains in each burial lot, tomb or vault under its control. No deposit of the bodies or remains of the human dead shall be made in a single chamber, vault or tomb wholly or partly above the natural surface of the ground unless the part thereof below such surface is of a permanent character, constructed of materials capable of withstanding extreme climatic conditions, waterproof and air tight, and capable of being sealed permanently to prevent all escape of effluvia, and unless the part thereof above the natural surface of the ground is constructed of natural stone of a standard not less than that required by the United States government for monuments erected in national cemeteries, of durability sufficient to withstand all conditions of weather.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @badgeman46:

      1) No need to view the body

      2) Why the he.l would it need to be exhumed? Is that a regular occurrence?

      3) How is a human body “leaching into your ground water” different from…I dunno…a squirrel, crocodile, earthworm…etc leaching into your water? I’d much rather my family save a few thousand on a burial and buy a Brita or something.

      @Black_and_Blue:

      Please provide the jurisdiction and case/docket number for the case in which you claim a funeral director was sued for a mustache being improperly trimmed;

      Until then, it shall be assumed that you either just made that up, or that the plaintiff lost.

      Also, here’s how a casket and a car differ:

      A BMW brings me more enjoyment for 10+ years of use due to superior handling, quality of materials, aesthetics, etc vs. a Kia

      A $20,000 casket does the same for me as a corpse that a burlap potato bag would do.

      By using the car/casket comparison for the greiving family, you imply to them that the more they pay, the more value there is to be derived. As a society, putting precious textiles and metals into a casket is an irrisponsible allocation of resources. The very fact that you admitted that you’d be flamed for what you said shows what your conscience is trying to deny…

      @Yarrr:

      Family Owned doesn’t mean much….it could actually be worse since, in a way, they work 100% on “commission” – in that each upcharge results in pure profit vs. a 10% cut. Enzyte was family owned….look how that turned out.

      Also, re: They don’t know how many dead bodies they’ll handle a year – it’s not really that hard for them to predict. I work at an airline and we don’t know exactly how many pax we’ll have each year – but we use this tool called math to get a rough estimate – and plan our finances accordingly.

  22. emilymarion333 says:

    I think a green funeral is the way to go.

    I would not want my loved ones to waste money upon my death. I would prefer to be cremated or buried in one of the green cemeteries that plats a tree instead of a head stone.

    I do not want to be embalmed and buried in a casket with a concrete vault – I would rather decompose with nature.

  23. nicemarmot617 says:

    The entire funeral industry is sick and wrong. I’m sorry but it’s flat-out immoral to waste perfectly good land and money on storing artificially-preserved corpses. What was worse is that my family does none of these disgusting things, but still has to deal with this evil industry just for cremation. I’ve already told my whole family, just dig a hole and chuck me in it. If you try to send me through the funeral industry, I will come back to haunt you. Though knowing how cheap my family is, they’ll probably just dig a grave in the woods to save money!

  24. JW says:

    I just want to be dumped in a hole as soon as I die. The thought of buying a useless casket and being fixed up just for a few days to be seen actually scares me. Waste of money and I just don’t like the idea of people doing those things they do at the funeral home. I am sure there’s laws against a fresh dead person being buried.

  25. Black_and_Blue says:

    As a funeral director in NYS, i can understand alot of people being very upset with things like this. The reason why the material is spelt the way that it is, frankly is because death is a very sensitive issue. As a funeral director, if anything goes wrong, a mispelled name in an obituary or dad doesnt have the right floral peice. The family gets upset and you are usually the person who gets yelled at. Its spelt out like this not because as an industry were not open to it, but because you have to be amazingly detailed about what can happen ten years down the line or the such. if your not, then a family can and will sue, people sue because funeral homes have shaved part of a moustache or trimmed one up, and its called mutilation. Its essentially just like another business where you could get hurt, its just a major liability.

    More importantly, the funeral industry in the 70’s with jessica mitford is/was absolutly disgusting. Yes, we as an industry as a whole were shown as monsters and that hasnt disappeared. With me Its very hard to go day to day, and hear about how all these people ahve bad experiences and hate us so much. Thats why i became a funeral director, i come from a family with no funeral background but with alot of helping carrers ( fireman, parole officer, teachers)In school theres still bad apples, but its sour we all get balmed and casted to the fire with everyone else.The new wave of funeral directors are very modern and open to alot of things like this. I am one of these people. I have done several green burials and dont mind doing them. There are some health risks, and you just need to address them with a family and make sure there prepared for things like this. Thats where that wordy document comes in, we have a simple form we read to the family they have to sign, just understanding everything in case an issue arises. In new york state and many other states, you cannot deny a family to see a loved one, one last time. Even if its a skeleton ( which has happened ), but if a body is in such a manner you feel uncomfertable showing a family this, thats where the forms come in. Its just to protect a funeral home in case of a possible problem

    Im just tryingt o give a view from someone on the other side, i will probably be burned and yelled at for posting this but i just want to put my two cents in. I dont own a funeral home, i dont make the prices. I tell familes to try and personalize things, bring a music cd they enjoyed, or bring in flowers and her garden gloves cause she loves planting, anything to make the family feel more comfertable. i tell families that a casket is like a car, theres diffrent makes and models, but they all get us from point a to point b. I dont care what the family selects, i dont make commision, i just honestly want to make sure theyre happy. Cause to be honest i got into the business to honestly just help people, i would take a a full heart thank you and a hug over selling anything any day, no matter what my boss thinks.

    Also sorry for the spelling and grammer, i just dont have time to write this out in a complete manner.

  26. linkinkampf19 says:

    All I know is that I’m still young and will probably want to go this route when the time comes. Either this or donate my body to science. My father has already told me, if it’s possible, that he wants his body to be thrown into the woods, or go the route of sailing out to sea on a burning funeral pyre. To me, that sounds a hell of a lot cooler than being stuck under a whole bunch of “fancy” wood and six feet of earth. Hell, do they even go down six feet anymore?

  27. flipx says:

    Just so ya all know there is one funeral director in Canada that has never charged for for anything in regards to a child’s funeral the family comes in makes the arrangements but they will never see a bill. And do donate your body to the medical schools there are more than doctors that benefit physiotherapists dentists EMT’s nurses ect.

  28. usmcmoran says:

    reminds me of the snl skit happy fun ball
    -DECEDENT may explode if unenbalmed, REPRESENTATIVES should not look directly at the DECEDENT as it may cause retinal burns, the DECEDENT may come back to life an seek the brains of the REPRESENTATIVE, don’t taunt the DECEDENT,if unenbalmed the DECEDENT may look deceased and unnatural…

  29. stevebosco says:

    My aunt recently passed away from cancer and we went through the whole funeral process – she wanted a viewing, graveside service, etc. She tried to save money by requesting the funeral home at the cemetery perform the embalming and preparation instead of one a few miles down the road. Since the grave and the funeral home are both in the cemetery you don’t have to rent a hearse, driver, etc, right? WRONG! The funeral home charged our family an extra $800 to drive the casket from the funeral home to the grave, both of which were on site and less than 200 yards away.

    The reason they rip us off?? Because they can.

  30. joshuaslocum says:

    Hi all,

    I’m the guy who wrote the article criticizing this disclaimer form. I’m glad this provoked discussion – but I want to clear up a few misconceptions some commenters have about funerals, burial, and the law. There’s so much misinformation out there that costs people money and boxes them in to funerals they don’t want.

    Badgeman46, above, wrote that his state law requires a concrete burial vault. Not true. There is no state law in the US that requires a vault as a condition of burial. There is no state law that requires a coffin as a condition of burial, either.

    Also, there’s no environmental problem from dead bodies decomposing in the ground – that’s nature. If the funeral industry is so concerned about it, why don’t they form a charity to embalm every dead cow, deer, squirrel and piece of road kill? Honestly.

    If anyone’s interested in getting *facts* about funerals, hop over to funerals.org. The original story on this green burial indemnification form debunks some common mortuary mythology.

  31. Yarrr says:

    Do you know why funeral directors exist? Because your average person does not know the laws and method for disposing of a body, and most do not have the desire. So there is a need for the funeral director. Do you know why a funeral director charges so much? Because he has to keep the lights on. Do you know how many bodies a funeral director will handle in a year? No, and neither does he, so he has to make sure he charges enough to cover his expenses.

    Obviously there are bad funeral directors. Stay away from the corporately held funeral homes, their pricing is dictated by corporate headquarters and not by their directors. They are also under pressure to make their sales target, which forces them to be a little bit slimier than the rest.

    So go with an independent. Most of them happily advertise that they are family owned. Pre-plan and shop around. Do your homework. Much of what most people think is the funeral director trying to rip them off is really the funeral director presenting products that the family needs to decide upon when they’re having one of the worst days of their lives. “I just lost my mother, and you want to sell me a vault?” In reality, the family needs a vault for the cemetery they want to go to, but since they don’t know anything about them, they feel as though they are getting ripped off.

    So the general public, because they’ve never taken the time to think rationally about their own impending demise, thinks they are getting bilked when the reality is they’ve never done the research. How do you expect the industry to react? Funeral directors will still be a necessity, even if everyone is getting cremated or using a green cemetery. They also have a right to profit. They went to school, they took out the loans for a multimillion dollar facility, they pay to have people on staff. So although some of their practices are a bit sketchy (a sealer casket? come on) by and large most of what they do is above board, with dignity in mind.

    • Landru says:

      When my father died, we bought the cardboard casket and did the cheapest we could get away with – as he would have wanted. However, there are many, many people who want the works, either for themselves or for their loved ones. We may not agree, but it’s what some people want and funeral directors do provide the service. It’s just like any other consumer issue – plan ahead, look for the independent shops, read the bill before you sign and ask questions. And don’t buy the extended warranty.

      [Also – about the donation to medicine concept, the concern I have is that I’ll end up in one of those traveling dead-body-in-action science exhibits. Isn’t that where all those bodies came from? Too creepy for me.]

      • @Landru:
        You have to specifically contact those science exhibit creators and fill out loads of paperwork if you want your body to be a part of their exhibit. They don’t just take you from the hospital if you donate yourself to science.

        I went to one in Toronto not long ago and there was a whole section dedicated to the people who opted to become part of the “show”. Only the deceased was able to make the decision, not their loved ones or family. It’s somthing you decide ahead of time.

      • edosan says:

        @Landru: As others have said, you have to make specific arrangements with the Bodyworlds people to eventually become part of their exhibits — lots of people already sign up, so they’re not taking anyone that donates their body.

        There are a lot of important results from donating your body to science and it (along with organ donation) should be strongly considered by anyone before it is too late.

        It may gross me out when I think about it, but it’s a much more responsible thing to do than saddle my family with a big bill from a funeral home.

  32. krom says:

    Why does any of that even matter? What is the obsession with looking at a dead body, and needing to know where it is after it is dead? A person isn’t in a body, but in the experiences had with that person.

    Dust to dust, right? Seems like green burial is more in line with that notion than the obsession with preserving dead bodies that are going to be put in the ground.

  33. fonetek says:

    Please throw out my remains in a Hefty bag and use all of the money saved to throw a kick-ass party or have my family take a great vacation! Now that’s money well spent. When you die, what other options are legally available. This industry has to be making money hand over fist. It’s like they have a monopoly on death.

  34. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    This discussion thread is so upsetting that I’ve decided not to participate at all…

    I AM NOT GOING TO DIE!

    Take that funeral industry!

  35. mackjaz says:

    Does anybody want one of these fancy, expensive funerals? I see the comments in this thread are virtually 100% against spending $20K-$30K on paying for a chemical-based, polished-casket ceremony.

    If anybody disagrees, please comment… I’m just curious.

  36. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Well actually I rather like the option of grandma disintegrating in the ground… it is pleasant versus the option of having her bled like a stuck pig, then pumped up with highly toxic chemicals… next comes the bondo (hole filler) and paint to make her look like she never did.

    Actually I would like to be buried in a canvas bag about 6 feet down and a tree planted over me… many years from that point my great grand brats will be able to point to that tree and say… “Cheap old bastard Great Grandpa Scrooge had his ass buried under that tree… some of him is in that tree… Get the Saw!”

  37. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Good point… where do all the little critters go? Years ago a hunt’n dog of mine got gutted by a beaver in a populated lake area… I found a lady who said she saw my dog floating in the lake beside her dock and was so upset she had to go hug her dog fifi… I would have thought she’d be upset because her fresh water intake from the lake was 15 metres from where my dead dog was floating (and likely later sank). Hope she liked her beagle flavoured water…

  38. SkyeBlue says:

    I’m not sure about the laws in any others states, but I know in OK as long as you do it within 24 hours you can handle the funeral yourself and bury the body on your own property. My inlaws have a large piece of propery way out in the country and they have handled 2 burials themselves so far. As far as I know the only money they had to put out was for an elderly Aunt who died out of State, they had to pay the funeral home to bring her body up from LA to OK. They even made the caskets.

    Some of you might think it sounds morbid, but the Aunt was almost 100 years old and lived in a nursing home and was more or less desitute. I think their way makes lot more sense than the funeral my good friend had for her 16 year old son back in January. The family lives on SSI and is now in debt, for what our church did not cover for them, over $2000.00. It will take them YEARS to pay it off.

  39. Gman says:

    From what I remember [and my memory is full of way too many video game-induced holes so this might be incorrect]but the natural decomposition process is not what they are worried about with the concrete casings. What they are worried about are the artificial preservative methods used in many preservations leaching into the ground water.

  40. ranchgal says:

    Ummm… the question of a “green” burial has the most obvious answer… cremation! You know, dust to dust? You don’t have to go through an expensive burial home to get this done.

    • Gman says:

      @ranchgal: I would not call cremation entirely “green”. It takes a lot of energy [and bad emissions] to “burn” a body.

      So in essence death is just bad for the environment. I will now start a protest against Death for ruining the environment.
      Anyone want to stand outside Death’s house and ask it to stop letting people die?

  41. sir_eccles says:

    I want to be tied to a rock and pecked away by vultures!

  42. pfox280 says:

    After reading the book “Stiff” I realized that green is the way to go. And cremation is really not that green, you are being burned and therefore creating smoke that will be released into the atmosphere. And if you have fillings in your teeth, then the heavy metals in those are let out as well.
    There was also a neat other way to be green cremated which was to sink your body in liquid nitrogen and then applying some intense ultra sonic vibration that breaks the body into small pieces which can then be buried as a fertilizer for a new tree. I like that option but at this point it only available in Sweden I think.
    I just hate the modern funeral industry, it is completely opportunistic and gross. There is no need to be pumped with chemicals so you can be put in the ground a couple days later….As far as I know, the only reason that embalming became popular was when people saw Abe Lincoln so well preserved on his posthumous tour of the country by rail, they wanted to look the same when dead. Interestin…
    They just prey on peoples’ ignorance and gross out factor. Like the moron who wrote that we should be worried about a rotting person leaching into a well. It doesnt take much to see that really makes no sense, we are not burying people in wells.

    • Tankueray says:

      @pfox280: Well, you’re half right. Incinerators must be permitted to operate, this permit allows minimal discharge from the stack. If you see an incinerator discharging anything into the atmosphere, it is operating in violation of its permit requirements and should be turned in to the EPA. These incinerators do not get hot enough to aerosolize metal. The metal is usually found intact or slightly melted in the remains. EPA has not considered human remains incinerators an “area-source” of interest, and the states frequently enact more stringent rules anyway. No harmful chemicals/pathogens are released during the cremation of a body. Incinerators can only be permitted to burn natural gas, LPG, Number 2 fuel oil with less than .3% sulfur, or electric. They burn pretty clean.

      I personally have access to several investigations into the “leaching” of bodies into groundwater and closely located surface water from embalmed and non-embalmed bodies. (In these cases, the water table is sufficiently below the burial depth.) While the “experts” say it’s possible, our investigations showed no signs of contamination associated with the bodies. (we were specifically looking for chemicals associated with preparing a body and pathogens) In some cases this happens, where the water table is right below the surface, as in New Orleans – so they inter the bodies in structures above the ground.

      And if a dead animal gets in your well, you can tell pretty quickly. The wells that are used by public water supplies are well protected and significantly deeper than a private well, there is little chance of anything decaying and fouling those wells.

      Domestic animal disposal can happen a few ways: Burial, cremation, or disposal in a landfill. Or burning by a vet in certain circumstances. Livestock carcasses are disposed by on-site burial, composting, or sending the carcass to a landfill, renderer, or commercial waste incinerator. Livestock that has a communicable disease must be disposed of within 24 hrs by burial or burning. Livestock dying of Anthrax or Ornithosis must be destroyed then burned on-site within 24 hrs. There are rules as to where they can be buried to prevent water contamination.

      In Texas, you can bury (I believe a family member, no strangers) on your own property.

      All of the above is true in Texas, for other states, contact the appropriate state environmental or health authority.

  43. tellner says:

    My wife is Muslim. I’m a Jew. I guess we’ll have to have graves right at the border between the cemeteries and hold skeletal hands. Apart from that we’re lucky enough to have a religious exemption from most of the funeral industry and customs that closely approximate Green Funeral Practices. The ceremony must be carried out within the day. The casket is closed. There is no embalming. If it were legal we’d arrange to have our bodies dumped onto one of the Hawaiian reefs. “Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes:
    Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange.”

    Personally, I want my body to go back to the ground and be taken up by the soil fungi and earthworms to be turned into a tree and flowers. A biodegradable casket would be just fine. If that can’t be arranged I’ll make ours from unpainted unvarnished wood with little holes so dirt can get in.

    • marsneedsrabbits says:

      @tellner:
      If it were legal we’d arrange to have our bodies dumped onto one of the Hawaiian reefs.

      If cremation is allowed in your faiths, there is at least one company that incorporates the ashes of the deceased into artificial reefs that are places in the ocean and soon become full of sea life.

      Mike Rowe helped make the reefs as part of a segment on “Dirty Jobs”. A Google search with “ocean reef cremation” gives several options.

      I’d like to go the other way, geographically, with a jhator, aka, a Sky Burial. The body is placed on rocks and the major bones are split with an axe, then the birds and animals dismantle everything.

      No fire, no chemicals, no wood, no metal, no cloth, nothing.

  44. BluesFan says:

    Ever thought about a burial at sea?

    Some heavy chain, maybe a canvas bag, maybe ss chicken wire, find a deep spot with a live bottom and off you go.

    Maybe, just maybe, include a few engraved plastic, non degradable tags attached to the weights/chains. etc. Just in case an anchor drags you up later. Save investigators some time.

  45. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    my sister and i have talked about this a lot and done some investigations. at least in two states in which i have lived [FL and NC] you can request an ‘alternate container’ for cremation, which often means cardboard box. in north carolina, a crematorium cannot refuse to allow this.

    in many states, if you are buried within 48 hours and there is no viewing, you don’t have to be embalmed.

    and here’s the reef interment that i have looked into, neptune’s reef:

    [www.nmreef.com]

    or there’s a company that does ‘reef balls’ [www.eternalreefs.com]

    you can find a lot of information on ‘natural burial,’ including links to state laws here:

    [naturalburial.coop]

    it is also possible in some places to get a permit for a home burial but the circumstances differ widely from state to state and the regulations are often difficult to find

  46. the-perfect-face-for-radio says:

    when i finally drop dead, i hope it’s indoors so my kitty doesn’t have to share my corpse with wild animals.

  47. supertechman-protests disemvoweling by disemvoweling himself says:

    Amen to simple Jewish funerals

    Barukh HaShem

  48. In NY, we have to have a concrete vault, regardless of burial method, or at least as far as I was told. I’ve been working as a Cemeterian under the radar for the last seven years or so, and that’s what I was told the whole time.

    As for not locating down the line, if that happens, then your cemetery is pretty much plain stupid. They’re required to keep records of these things, and while older methods were less precise, modern systems should (and do) give an accurate portrayal of where people are actually buried.

    I wouldn’t say it can’t happen (my mother and I spent a week trying to figure out who was buried in what by the record should have been an open spot) but it’s less likely now than in the past. (The record of that open spot was from 1880).

    • @TalKeaton: When my father, a very simple frugal man, died we were also told that a concrete vault was necessary, and we were encouraged to purchase a casket that was a high gauge metal and which had the super-secure type seal. Their selling point was to tell us that it would preserve the body better, would help to keep the worms out and the dirt from settling down over the casket… Ridiculous. We refused all of that – no vault, no metal, no super-duper seals. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust and all that. That the deceased are often buried in a way that ensures they are never able to truly return to the earth seemed contrary to what the concept of burial is and un-naturally perverse.

      When my mother died, she wanted to be cremated, and it was quite a bummer to find out we had to by a casket anyway.

      Like David Cross, I plan on donating my body to necrophiliacs.

  49. mgguy says:

    Read a book called “The American Way of Death Revisited” by Jessica Mitford. Available on Amazon.

    Originally written in the 60s and updated about 15-20 years later. Explains why the funeral industry is a racket, but also gives you a lot of options. I’m doing “direct cremation”.

  50. bizzz says:

    What’s the deal with the Neptune Society? Seems like a decent option. $1500 cremation service, supposedly no upsell. I wouldn’t mind taking care of things now by just laying out the $1500 and not worrying about it (or forcing my family to worry about it)

  51. econobiker says:

    Bears mentioning that if a person served in the United States Military and was honorably discharged most often they can qualify for a free military burial. Most commonly this is easiest to get done in their states military cemetary versus a federal military cemetary. Their spouse and dependent adult children (such as extremely physical or mental handicapped adults) then qualify to be buried in the same plot.

    This came in handy when my father passed a couple years ago. He (and my mother) had specified to be donated to science but the medical college declined due to his weight. Apparently they want bodies which are easier to work with – ie. not as heavy set.

    That said- we did the private post cremation funeral at the state vet cemetary and then had a memorial mass (Roman Catholic) the Friday after and a huge party. This was all down in a vacation beach town in NJ in June. The old man would have loved it since so many people got to get out of work early to go to the memorial and have food and drinks afterward!!!

    This party inspired a spry but older family friend (80 year old woman) to have a “celebration of her life” party. She wanted to blow the money with her family and friends before she died and told them specifically to cremate her and plant her the cheapest way possible with no fanfare since she already had the party!!!

  52. The funeral industry has been doing this for years. Read “The American Way of Death” for some insight into how.

  53. JustMe says:

    I’m actually a manager at a direct cremation place in California so I’d like to put in my two cents here.

    Can’t do that in California or everyone would “abandon” and never pay for taking care of the body. Legal next of kin has to pay whether they want to or not. There are exceptions i.e. deceased is indigent, but otherwise, family can’t just get out of paying because they don’t want to.

    The state of California does require a “basic cremation container” where the body to be cremated must go. We charge $25 plus tax for that.

    We use a heavy duty plastic “box”…it’s inexpensive, can be put in an “urn vault”, can be taken on a plane (should family want to transport to cemetery out of state) and is only $25 (plus tax of course)

    Be aware that just because you want your body donated, doesn’t mean they will accept you (even if you have signed up beforehand etc). There can be weight and health restrictions (and sometimes they just don’t need a body). So your family may still end up paying. Check with the school or department that you plan on dealing with and read the fine print. Also note that most places these days do not return you in an urn…you (or the body parts left) are cremated and scattered at sea.

    If the person is refrigerated there shouldn’t be a problem. Obviously you can’t have a five hour viewing, but we have one hour viewings of people all the time before they are cremated (and this can be days or weeks after the person passed (and we have refrigerated trucks for transport too).

    The new machines they are using take up much less energy and keep emissions to a minimum. It’s heavily regulated in California…you probably do more damage to the environment driving your car for a week.

    Please don’t lump us all under one entity! There really are places out there that don’t work on commissions and care about the families they deal with!

  54. doort says:

    WOW, for all the people who have no interest in having any kind of “funeral work” done when they pass into the great beyond…and don’t “care” what their loved ones do with them…there sure are a LOT of comments.

    I am a funeral director, that’s right, one of those lowly, slimy, “steal you blind” creeps…funny, when I started working at a funeral home before I could drive, I really thought I was doing something to help people, I mean, all those people were hugging me and telling me how much I helped them through a difficult time…gee, I must have been wrong.

    Are there problems in the industry? Duh…of course, as there are in ANY industry, though admittedly the funeral industry is obviously prone to more visceral responses than say…your Doctor not knowing his or her stuff (and you sure don’t know any better) and then you paying the price by lengthy, unnecessary hospital stays…and their accompanying bills.

    The truth is that funeral service evolved out of the desire of the survivors of Union soldiers to have their loved one’s remains returned from the the southern battlefields coupled with urbanization that led to “home services” being more difficult, hence the “mortician-undertaker” opening his “home” (think “funeral home”) to families in need.

    Are there greedy SOB’s out there? Absolutely, but there are more decent people trying to provide a service that is being requested…green burials are a viable option…but perhaps not for everyone…just because “you want one” does not mean everyone does…green or not.

  55. joshuaslocum says:

    I’m Josh Slocum, who wrote the article criticizing this green burial idemnification form. I’m jumping in to correct some misinformation (again) that some in the funeral industry have posted. If you guys want to separate funeral fact from fiction, come see us at [www.funerals.org.] Most of what we think we know about death, dying and funerals is false. Rule of thumb: any time someone in the funeral industry claims there’s a law requiring something, insist they produce it. 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t exist. Most of you all really savvy – some of you jumped right on it – great! Excellent comments also from those of you questioning the idea that $$ = “love for the dead.”

    To badgerman46, above, who posted the Massachusetts law that he claims requires a concrete vault for burial. No, it doesn’t. I don’t think you read carefully:

    “The permanent disposition of such bodies or remains shall be by interment in the earth OR deposit in a chamber, vault or tomb. . “

    I emphasized the “or,” in case you missed it.

    It pays funeral people to read laws carefully. Misrepresenting the law to consumers is a violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule.

    To JustMe:

    Thanks for jumping in here from the industry side. There are a lot of good, upstanding people in funeral service, and your frank answers demonstrate that. I’m only criticizing misinformation from organizations like NFDA, not all funeral businesses.

    To bizzz, who asked about the Neptune Society:

    You may want to read our article on them before you sign a check. Go to http://www.funerals.org, use the search box, and type in “neptune.”

    To Talkeaton, who said he thinks New York law requires a concrete vault: No, it doesn’t. In fact, New York is one of two states (the other is Vermont) that allow you to refuse a vault on religious grounds. It’s in section 201.6 of NY cemetery law, available at:

    [www.dos.state.ny.us]

    “(4) should a lot owner, a person with burial rights or a representative of one about to be interred express objection to the use of the required concrete burial vault or grave liner at the time of interment based upon a religious belief, the cemetery must, without question, cancel the requirement that a concrete vault or concrete grave liner be used;. . .”

    I’d love it if you guys would post comments and questions about death and funerals at [www.funerals.org], too. We’ve got open comments on most articles, and a discussion forum.

    Just in case anyone wants to know how I know these details, my job requires me to research the law and give consumers facts. I’m also co-writing an upcoming book on funeral and burial law for consumers, state by state. But I can make mistakes too, and if someone catches me making one, I hope they’ll let me know! Thanks again to Ben at consumerist.com for giving this play.

    Josh Slocum
    Executive Director, Funeral Consumers Alliance

  56. Black_and_Blue says:

    @RedwoodFlyer

    by you stating your value in a car ( a bmw vs. a kia) is how you percieve the statement. Your entitled to your thoughts and i respect that. But i am not saying theres value in what you buy. The main point i was trying to stress is i let families know that all of the caksets serve the same purpose, to go from here to there. Thats all. I dont say its like a car to families, i was using it as a simple way to describe it here, on this forum. I tell families, ” were about to enter the selection room, theres many make and models of caskets and many diffrent prices as well, but they all serve the same purpose. Choose only what your comfertable with and ill be in the hallway to give you some privacy and also if you have any questions.” The statement at least to me shows nothing about buy something really expensive cause dad wont be happy if you dont. Like i said, as long as a family is happy, im happy. Regardless of whatever they buy. On the matter of the case, its information we had to read about in school to be a funeral director. I dont have the information, so did i make it up “NO” but i cant support it so do what you wish with that. And the only thing i feel guilty about is how i havent been in the business long enough to change more peoples minds. I should have started sooner.

    @ DoorT

    Thank you, at least there’s two funeral directors who joined the business for the right reasons. Like everything theres always some bad apples. Hopefully we changed someones mind by showing we care.

  57. LunaCossus says:

    the main purpose of embalming is disinfection, then preservation. no you cannot get anything from a properly embalmed body. BUT you can get a disease from an unembalmed body. but, either way embalmers wear gloves. the health risks are a bit greater w/o embalming if handling w/o gloves. it would be silly & irresponsible of you to think you could “just scrub of an infectious agent”. you cannot wash off h.i.v., or tissue gas if you, unbeknownst to you, had a paper cut & fluid from a body got into your open cut. you risk bringing this home to your families (they didn’t ask for you to bring home a disease so why be selfish & do it?) also, gases escape bodies when one dies, TB,& creutzfeld jacob is a huge disease (a sure death sentence) that is exacerbated upon death, bodies also leak (feces, urine, blood). a good embalmer will use all necessary protective equipment so they will not get contaminated nor bring any diseases home with them to their families. also, bleach is actually more toxic than formaldehyde. to the people on this site that mentioned they were ripped off by shady funeral homes, I am so sorry! BUT, you can sue. a casket IS NOT required to be buried in!! you only need to be shrouded (a sheet, cloth, etc), unless LOCAL laws state otherwise. just like anything else, searching for a doctor, dentist, a school, mechanic, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!! most people spend more time researching for a new car or t.v. than they do for a a burial service. know your rights!! also, PRE PLAN your funeral!!! do your research now so your loved ones won’t get taken @ the time of need by unscrupulous funeral homes. keep in mind there are shady people in EVERY line of work! by the way, i am an embalmer, i am all for green funerals, i strongly believe that’s the way they should be & i want to be cremated.