A funeral director on earth-friendly farewells

July 21, 2016

A funeral director on earth-friendly farewells

This week's Home Tip is from a friend of the Trust, funeral director Fiona King. King is an advocate of natural burials and you can learn a bit more about her views by listening to her TedX Talk on YouTube.

If your day-to-day consumer preferences are for locally sourced goods and services, for recycling or repurposing and reducing your energy consumption, have you given serious consideration to your final footprint?

On death, historically in New Zealand, we have had two options - cremation or conventional burial in a cemetery. And most likely, you will be encouraged to be embalmed and be offered a veneer MDF coffin with chromed plastic handles. However, there is now a sustainable alternative.

Wellington city is fortunate to have the Natural Burial Cemetery, established in 2008 through the dedication of the not-for-profit organisation Natural Burials. Located in the Makara Cemetery, the site is administered and maintained by the Wellington City Council.

The concept is a burial site where nothing is introduced to the soil that will pollute or interfere with natural environmental processes. The shallow plots are at a depth where the soil is most active and over planted with a tree native to that area.

Each grave has a temporary biodegradable plot marker. Simple requirements are that bodies are not embalmed, are dressed in natural fibres and buried in a shroud or an approved natural coffin made of untreated, sustainable wood. There is now a wide choice of beautifully designed and crafted authentic real timber coffins trimmed in linens, cottons or pure wools. This rural setting with vocal birdlife is our visual vernacular.

Already, the early adopters are part of a thriving, regenerating native bush and you would not know they are there. Now well established with over 150 burials - the council are expanding the area available as more environmentally savvy Wellington residents make this positive choice.

There is something distinctive about a natural burial at Makara. Family, friends and colleagues can carry the coffin down the 100-metre sloping gravel driveway to the burial plot. Nearby livestock show some interest in the human activity.

Conversations start and connections are made. It becomes an inclusive event, from people taking turns to carry the coffin, to lowering the coffin into the grave and everyone helping to backfill, culminating in the planting of the chosen native tree. Considered environmental choices have been expressed and delivered - simply and honestly.

Often, attendees who have been part of this experience have changed their funeral plans accordingly.

If you're interested in natural burials, we recommend you do your homework, consider your options and complete the form to plan your earth-friendly farewell.

Have the conversation with those who are likely to be in charge of your funeral arrangements and make your choices clear to them and/or your legal adviser. Then we suggest you get on with living.





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