Throughout the Western world, cremation or burial has long been the norm for physically dealing with the deceased. But today greener methods are available, in a practice known as natural or woodland burial. It’s not a mere fad — funeral traditions of many religions allow the body to recycle back to the earth — but in a contemporary twist, such burials are now performed in conjunction with land restoration and conservation techniques. Many variations exist, from placing a body wrapped in a cotton shroud directly in the ground to a ceremonial funeral in a conservation park. But typically these methods use minimal resources and bodily treatment steps and hence are more environmentally friendly and affordable than older techniques. Interest has grown as people seek ways to lighten their carbon footprint.
Locally, Tam Valley’s Fernwood Cemetery offers burials involving no embalming or chemicals and using biodegradable burial containers. San Francisco’s Better Place Forests will return a loved one’s ashes to the earth beneath a protected, specially designated tree; the company’s first memorial forest is in Mendocino.