If you subscribed to a blog about celebrities or woodworking and one day a post showed up about death (specifically burial), you might feel a little disappointed. Or weirded out. So I hope you will make the same connection I did between simple living and a new business I read about called Prairie Oaks Memorial Eco Gardens.
Prairie Oaks—which is happy to be known as Minnesota’s first “green cemetery” even though I’m pretty sure natural burial is as old as dirt—placed an undeveloped piece of property into a land conservancy so that it can never be used for anything other than a cemetery. On this property Prairie Oaks offers something called natural or woodland burial, which does not involve embalming, a metal casket or cement liner. Instead, the body is wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable coffin. Graves are marked with a fieldstone bearing the deceased’s name and the family is provided with GPS coordinates. The owner of Prairie Oaks intends to plant wildflowers and indigenous trees as the cemetery fills, aiming for a prairie-like park that would be attractive for picnicking.
For those who would like to reside somewhere permanently (but not really), natural burial is a significant improvement over expensive, environmentally-unfriendly casket burials. It’s a simpler way to go.
To find out if this kind of burial is available where you live in the U.S., try the search tool at the Green Burial Council.
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March 28, 2015: there’s an even more environmentally-friendly burial option in development, and the shortest, crudest label for it is “human composting.” You can read about it here and also in the book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by science writer Mary Roach.