Planning for your own funeral is something most people agree is important, but also something most people don’t do.
The contradiction is easy to understand. Who wants to dwell on dying?
But by burying your head in the sand on the topic, so to speak, you may leave yourself unaware of the choices you have when your time is up.
A growing trend, which has potential appeal to those concerned about both the environment and saving money, has found its way to South Jersey. Two local funeral homes recently became the first in Atlantic and Cape May counties to be certified by the Green Burial Council to perform funerals and cremations that meet specific standards for protecting funeral workers and the environment.
It’s not for everyone. But it’s good to know you have options beyond the normal practices that typically cost between $7,000 and $10,000.
Not all so-called green funerals are the same, but they generally use no embalming fluid or substitute a plant-based, nontoxic alternative. Conventional embalming fluid includes a form of formaldehyde, which the government classifies as a carcinogen.
Other aspects of green funerals include limiting waste and the carbon footprint of typical burials by doing away with concrete vaults, choosing more bio-degradable coffin materials or simply using a cotton shroud to wrap the body. These choices also are where the cost of a funeral may be reduced.
The two local certified funeral homes, Jeffries & Keates Life Celebration Funeral Home in Northfield and Keates-Plum Life Celebration Funeral Home in Brigantine, are working with Steelmantown Cemetery of Woodine, the only cemetery in New Jersey certified by the national Green Burial Council, according to funeral director Andrew B. Johnson. Several other area cemeteries have not been certified but offer both green and conventional burials.
Certified cemeteries must not use vaults and try to conserve land. Steelmantown workers dig graves by hand and transport coffins made of biodegradable materials such as pine, bamboo or wicker to the gravesite on a handcart.
Behind these efforts are the desire to minimize negative environmental impacts, protect more natural habitat and play to people’s desire to leave an eco-friendly legacy.
To the environmentally conscious, reducing the carbon footprint in the rituals marking their death can have a strong appeal. It’s the purest form of getting back to nature.
It’s always been true that you can’t take it with you. But you also don’t have to leave as much behind as you may have thought.