The Shroud of Marin- the New Yorker on Eco-Burial

We have written before about eco-friendly burials in Marin County, CA. Now the Aug 29 issue of the New Yorker does a very long piece on Fernwood's somewhat crazed developer Tyler Cassity and the green funeral business, its visionaries and its various approaches. Included is Susanne Wiigh-Masak's Promessa System (mentioned last year in our pages and Worldchanging) where one is flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen, smashed into freeze-dried little bits and spread around as compost. She says "I feel very calm in knowing that I will be a rhododendron when I grow up" ::New Yorker worth reading.Our editor Domenic Muren wrote a comment on the Worldchanging piece with another option that we repeat here:

If you've ever read "A diet for a small planet" or other books which advocate vegetarianism on the grounds that it is the best way to feed all earth's citizens (minimizing energy losses from eating other top-of-the-food-chain animals like beef and tuna). The problem with our current burial practices, is the same. Except this time we are the top-of-the food chain animal, and we are removing all the nutrients and energy that we've accumulated in our bodies from the biocycle. These ideas you point out are really exciting.

A slightly less exciting, but nevertheless interesting idea is the one being pursued by Eternal reefs ( which provides the option for your cremated remains to become part of a constructed coral reef. In this case, the physical remains are pretty much the same as any cremated remains -- wasting energy and fossil fuels. The difference is that they leverage the desire for that person's remains to live on into funding for reviving reef habitat. And, it's significantly easier, because cremation, as opposed to composting, is already socially accepted.

Maybe other concepts based on this approach could be used to stepping stone into an entirely green method for burial.