Greening Death

Reclaiming Burial Practices and Restoring Our Tie to the Earth

By (author) Suzanne Kelly

Publication date:

01 September 2015

Length of book:

214 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442241565

We once disposed of our dead in earth-friendly ways—no chemicals, biodegradable containers, dust to dust. But over the last 150 years death care has become a toxic, polluting, and alienating industry in the United States.

Today, people are slowly waking up to the possibility of more sustainable and less disaffecting death care, reclaiming old practices in new ways, in a new age.
Greening Death traces the philosophical and historical backstory to this awakening, captures the passionate on-the-ground work of the Green Burial Movement, and explores the obstacles and other challenges getting in the way of more robust mobilization. As the movement lays claim to greener, simpler, and more cost-efficient practices, something even more promising is being offered up—a tangible way of restoring our relationship to nature.

Kelly writes engagingly on this exceedingly timely topic: how funerary rites are affected by the burgeoning environmental movement. Through conversations with people in the field, she explains what a green burial is and how specific aspects of traditional funerals, from embalming to caskets, liners, and vaults conflict with its ecological ideals. But more than just technical aspects and logistics, including regulations, Kelly also tackles the complexities of cultural perspectives on death and the desire for guidance pertaining to alternative funerary practices even beyond cremation. She weighs in with personal experiences and frustrations over the challenge to honor tradition when no one knows what the new tradition should be, providing a welcome balance for her coverage of more practical topics. Changing how we care for the dead, she notes, means 'restoring our relationship to the land.' Interestingly, some things about today’s choices are not so modern after all, but in fact return to practices that were once understood as the right things to do. A useful and highly readable title that serves a valuable purpose in our complicated times.