Let's take care of our land of plenty!

The Pays de Cocagne Sustainable Development Group's (PCSDG) mission is to engage citizen participation towards the sustainability of Cocagne watershed communities

Natural Burials

What is a Natural (Green) Burial?

Natural Burial for centuries the only burial method available, is now re-emerging as a growing alternative for end-of-life choices. Natural burial is permitted in New Brunswick and is regarded as a statement of personal values for those who seek to minimize their impact on the environment, funeral practices and sustainable development can go hand-in-hand. For people who are mindful of the cyclical nature of life, natural burial can be a spiritually fulfilling alternative to conventional methods.

Natural (Green) burial is the returning of a human body to the earth using the most environmentally friendly methods available. While Natural (Green) burial takes many forms, depending on a person’s wishes and the specific regulations governing funeral homes and cemeteries, certain commonalities do exist. The most common aspects of a natural burial: no embalming (the use of non-toxic embalming fluids is sometimes permitted); direct earth burial without use of a burial vault in a biodegradable casket (non-endangered wood, wicker, cardboard, etc.); or a simple woven shroud. Burial sites are commonly unmarked and include a commitment to integrate burial areas into a greater local ecosystem. In many cases land conservation is also practiced.

What Choices Do I Have About my Burial?

The final disposition of your earthly body is within your power to choose up until the moment of your incapacity or death. That moment often comes as a surprise, and sooner than expected. After your death your next of kin has the responsibility of making choices for you. As with almost every aspect of daily living and dying there are a myriad of choices and options available, but only for those who have become “informed consumers”.  Simply put, funeral directors offer services, however not many promote Natural Burial options. You, or your next of kin, may accept some of these services and decline others or propose others such as Natural options. Options exist at every step of the process which is why it is important to become informed of your choices before the need arises.

Is There Anything Wrong with Modern Burial Practices? Why Choose Natural Burial over Modern Burial Practices?

The funeral industry, as we know it today, began to develop during the American Civil War (1860s). Embalming was developed to enable the shipment of soldiers’ bodies back home, sometimes over long distances. Before this time in most parts of the world, natural burials were quite simply the only way to bury the dead.

We have become more aware that our living, as with our dying, has the capacity to either enrich or deplete our environment. A typical or modern funeral means that the body will be washed and embalmed in preparation for public viewing in an open and often expensive casket, surrounded by floral tributes which are quickly discarded. The remains are then either cremated or buried. Burial often takes place inside a concrete vault (to assist the cemetery caretakers). In time, whether buried in an expensive casket or even enclosed in a ‘leak-proof’ vault, the human body will eventually decompose.

Both natural (traditional) and modern burial practices impact the fragile ecosystems of which we are a part. Modern funeral practices, however, have a greater ecosystem cost. It is estimated that, in a single year in the USA, enough embalming fluid is buried to fill eight Olympic-sized swimming pools, enough reinforced concrete is used in burial to build a two-lane highway between New York and Detroit, and more steel is used than was needed to build the Golden Gate Bridge.

Can I be buried on my own property?

Yes. Burial on one’s own property, as traditionally practised prior to the mid-1800’s, is still permitted throughout most of Canada and the United States as well as under current New Brunswick laws and regulations. The decision to bury on your own property must be carefully considered. Burial often changes the emotional attachment to the land. Thought has to be given to the long-term ownership of the land and also the eventual resale value of the property.


Natural Cemeteries

What is a Natural Cemetery?

The Green Burial Council is today the only group which certifies cemeteries as Green. Other cemeteries may use greener practices and yet not be fully certified. Certified Green Cemeteries must comply with certain requirements which include: allowance of burials without embalming or embalmed with non-toxic chemicals; the prohibition of concrete vaults; the requirement that coffins be made only from biodegradable materials etc. A full list of Green Cemetery requirements can be found at this link: http://greenburialcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015CemStandards.pdf 

The Green Burial Council has identified three types of Green or Natural burial grounds; namely Hybrid, Natural and Conservation Grounds.

Hybrid Burial Grounds
Hybrid Burial Grounds are cemeteries which practice both natural and conventional burials. Such cemeteries must designate an area of land for natural (green) burials. In these specific areas only biodegradable products can be used and vaults and embalmed remains are prohibited.

Natural Burial Grounds
Natural Burial Grounds practice land stewardship and restoration planning. Only sustainable burial methods are permitted.

Conservation Burial Grounds
Conservation Burial Grounds take natural burial grounds to the next level. They are natural (Green) lands which have joined with a conservation partner to protect endangered lands from development. Cemetery owners and conservation organizations often work together to establish a conservation easement on the land.

A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement which limits the type and/or amount of development a landowner will allow on a piece of property. Conservation burial grounds must practice sustainable and ethical burials in addition to protecting the open space, wildlife and habitat of the grounds.

Where Can I Find More Information on Natural Cemeteries in NB?

There are currently very few certified Natural or Conservation Burial Grounds in Canada and none within the Maritime Provinces. There are, however, existing traditional cemeteries which provide or allow for natural (Green) burials within their boundaries or which set aside natural (Green) burial sections when requested. Advance planning is always suggested in order to investigate the policies of your nearby cemetery. There is no central registry of cemeteries or their policies. Each cemetery develops its own rules and regulations regarding internment. Enquire with your local cemetery to find out if they will allow for a more natural internment within its cemetery grounds. Typical questions that may be asked include the following: Is it permissible to bury my remains in a biodegradable casket or wrapped simply in a shroud without a casket? Can burials take place without embalming?  Do I need to be buried in a concrete vault? What are your regulations regarding headstone/marker? Does the cemetery already have or would it consider setting aside a space for a Natural Burial Ground? Become informed.


Funeral Services

What is Embalming and is it Necessary?

Embalming is typically a three-stage process used for the short-term preservation of human remains and for retarding decomposition. This process involves draining the body of blood and replacing it with a formaldehyde-based preservative, vacuuming out the abdomen areas etc. of any bacteria and replacing these areas with formaldehyde, and finally setting the deceased features for viewing. Embalming fluid is usually comprised of chemical formaldehyde, which has been associated with health risks. Alternative methods for the temporary preservation of the deceased are available. Dry ice is the most common method. More information on this subject may be found here: http://crossings.net/resourceguide030109.pdf 

Because embalming significantly retards the natural process of decomposition and because it introduces a variety of toxic chemicals into the environment, embalming is not permitted in a natural burial ground.

Environmentally-friendly embalming fluids may still be considered toxic to the environment and may not be acceptable in natural burial sites. To date, of the three objectives of embalming, only two of the three i.e. preservation and disinfection, are accomplished by these alternative, “Greener” fluids. These fluids are not capable of fixing tissue or producing the tissue firmness to a satisfactory level for many morticians.

Can I still safely view the body if it is not embalmed?

Embalming is not necessary for a respectful burial of the dead.  A number of religions groups have traditionally never embalmed their deceased, preferring respectful washing of the body followed by a prompt burial. While not required, many funeral directors may require embalming if longer-term viewing or public viewing is requested. If infectious disease is present, or when the remains cross provincial or international borders, laws may require embalming.  Apart from these particular situations human remains can be available for short-term viewing and be buried or cremated without embalming. Viewing of the deceased without embalming is a time-sensitive issue and must involve careful consideration of the deterioration of the body as well as  health and safety issues, for instance, if the cause of death was an infectious disease, the body must be dealt with this in mind.  However, it is commonly understood that a body can be preserved for up to three days on ice in a cool room.

What About Home Death Care and a Home Funeral?

Services currently provided by licensed funeral providers in their funeral homes or in churches can also be performed at home by family members, friends, or by trained end-of-life midwives (Doula). Local laws and regulations differ and must be verified as part of the home funeral planning process. There are many websites available which can be of assistance in gathering more information such as:  http://www.cindea.ca/home-funerals.html

Do I Have to Use the Services of a Funeral Director?

Under the laws and regulations of New Brunswick, licensed funeral service providers organize and manage the burials of human remains; however, the next of kin is the person legally responsible for all decisions about what to do with the remains of a loved one. Often, though not legally necessary, the next of kin delegates some or all of these duties to a funeral director. Most, if not all of the tasks done by funeral directors can also be accomplished by family and friends, including obtaining the necessary legal documentation, preparing the body and burial of the body. Funeral directors, death doulas or end-of-life midwives can of course be of great assistance at the time of death. They are accustomed to paying attention to the details of formal documentation and decorum. They can contribute to a family’s peace of mind and can facilitate an uncomplicated burial.

Typical services families may request from a funeral director include: the transfer of the remains from the place of death to the funeral home/crematorium; assisting with pre-arrangements; consultation regarding the type of the services desired, and if requested, preserve and sanitize the remains or oversee the preparation of the remains; plan and schedule funeral services (cemetery, home or chapel); coordinate burials and cremations; and complete legal documents including a death certificate, issue death notices to newspapers, and inform survivors of any benefits. However, most if not all of these services are optional; for example, the family (next of kin) with a burial or cremation certificate obtained from the local coroner are legally able to transport the body to the final place of disposition.

Funeral directors are open to responding to the wishes of the family. Become informed. Pre-planning is always recommended, especially when considering a more natural or non-traditional funeral. Natural practices for burial are new and yet gaining in popularity. As the demand for more natural burial increases, similar to the increasing demand for cremation, funeral directors will begin to include more natural funeral options into their standard list of services. Some funeral directors are already taking a leadership role by promoting sustainable development in the industry. In Quebec, some funeral homes compensate for their carbon footprint by planting trees, shifting to more environmentally friendly practices, and by putting pressure on their suppliers to offer environmentally sustainable products. La Coopérative des Deux Rives for example, compensates for its entire carbon print.

Are Funeral Directors Willing to Participate in Natural Burials?

Currently in New Brunswick, natural burial options are not included among the standard list of choices offered by most funeral directors or cemeteries. Funeral directors are dedicated to assisting families and are able to ease the grief and stress at the time of a death. Most are willing to favourably respond to requests for alternative practices. However, it is highly advisable that families do their homework and know exactly what they want to request where specific services may be obtained. A helpful, though not exhaustive, list of resources is included.  Pre-planning well in advance for a natural or home funeral is essential.

What Are the Typical Costs of a Funeral?

Funeral directors in New Brunswick are prohibited by law from publishing the fees for the services they render. One must keep in mind that each service a family requests has a price attached to it, including the initial consultation, preparation of any documentation, basic preparation of the remains, embalming, use of a funeral coach, staff time to prepare and set-up, and the transportation of the remains. In addition to the cost of services, a coffin, burial plot, or columbarium niche might need to be purchased. One thing to keep in mind when reviewing the services and options is that everything a funeral home offers to do for you will cost you money. They are a business and like any other need to be economically viable and competitive. Make clear decision about which services you wish and ask for a breakdown of pricing. There are several websites which can be informative about pricing and may offer significant savings.

Here are some Canadian resources for price comparison:

http://www.canadianfunerals.com/funeral-related-articles/funerals-and-cremations-in-new-brunswick-canada.html 

https://gordonmonkfh.frontrunnerpro.com/runtime/4669/Current_Pricelist_with_Caskets_Vaults_and_Urns_2014.pdf 


Cremation

What Are the Regulations Regarding Cremated Remains (i.e. Can I scatter the ashes anywhere?)

Once a deceased person has been cremated the remaining ash and bone fragments pose no health risk. These cremated remains may be kept or scattered almost anywhere. Some cemeteries have set aside common spaces for the scattering of ashes or have constructed columbarium niches for cremated remains.

One is not required to purchase an urn. The funeral home will return the cremated remains to the family in a plastic bag, enclosed within a cardboard box. No other container is required for transporting ashes.

If one chooses to buy an urn, they come in all shapes, sizes materials and of course prices. Some are magnificent works of art in bronze or pottery. Others are simple wooden boxes. A growing trend is to use urns made out of simple cardboard, containing earth and the seed from an indigenous tree.

http://www.fiddleheadcaskets.com/ 
http://www.musesdesign.com/
https://www.oneworldmemorials.com/collections/ 
https://urnabios.com/urn/

What Are the Positive and Negative Aspects of Cremation?

Cremation uses far fewer resources than many other disposition options (except for direct burial). However, cremation too has an environmental impact. Many older crematoriums continue to burn fossil fuels and obviously use significantly more energy compared to newer, more environmentally efficient ones. Mercury may also be a consideration. Mercury is emitted when a deceased with dental amalgam fillings is cremated. Effective filtration devices that can fully mitigate mercury pollution should come on the market in the very near future.

There are as yet no easily accessible rating scales for crematoriums which might assist consumers to determine the level of pollution and carbon emissions which are produced. Individual crematoriums may provide such information, if requested. The industry is moving toward the use of more energy-efficient furnaces, greener fuel sources, and up-to-date scrubbers, recycling medical parts, and making contributions to carbon funds. All of these initiatives contribute to making the industry more environmentally friendly. Become informed. Ask about the practices of your local crematorium.


Caskets

Do I Need a Casket?

If a deceased person is transported directly from the place of death to the place of burial or cremation a casket is not required. There are plastic body bags or other containers made from biodegradable cardboard available for this purpose. If the deceased is being viewed by the public and then cremated, a simple wooden casket could be purchased or a more traditional coffin rented. However, the funeral director may require embalming if a public viewing is requested.

Most conventional caskets are made from non-biodegradable steel, fibreglass, chipboard, or typical hardwoods from endangered forests, often with rubber or plastic seals and liners. The Green Burial Council requires a casket, urn, or shroud suitable for a natural (Green) burial be made from materials/substances that are non-toxic and readily biodegradable. They also require that these products not be made from materials that are harvested in a manner that unnecessarily destroys habitat, as is the case with certain types of materials. A list of caskets, urns, and shrouds that meet these requirements, whose producers have provided clean, fully disclosed material safety data sheets, can be found on the Green Burial Council website.

Can I Make my Own Casket?

Homemade caskets are appropriate and respectful options for the burial of a loved one. If using the services of a funeral service provider, however, it is important to verify with them if they would be comfortable conducting a funeral from their establishment with such a homemade casket. Appearance and decorum reflect positively or negatively on the reputation of a funeral establishment. Most are extremely sensitive to public opinion.

Do I Need a Concrete Vault in NB?

While the concrete and metal in vaults may be considered “natural” to some, the manufacturing and transporting of vaults use energy and cause unnecessary carbon emissions. The main reasons vaults have become standard practice in many cemeteries is to retard decomposition (reassuring families of water-tight containers for caskets) and to prevent the ground from sinking as the body decays. Most often cemeteries insist on vaults in order to make lawn mowing easier (no dips in the ground surface). Vaults are prohibited in hybrid, natural or conservation burial grounds certified by the Green Burial Council. Remember that each cemetery establishes its own regulations. Become informed. Ask your local cemetery committee.

If I Want a More Natural Burial, Where Do I Begin?

Fill out a pre-planning document in order to clarify your wishes. Pre-planning is a deep reflective process about the end of your life. For some it is a stressful process. Give yourself sufficient time. Remember you are communicating your final wishes to those whose job it will be to dispose of your body when you are no longer able to advise them. The Natural Burial Company has an extensive and very useful pre-planning worksheet.

Speak with a licensed funeral director, an end-of-life midwife or a death doula about their business practices and in particular whether they would be able to carry out your wishes. If you are considering burial in a local cemetery, discuss your plans with the local cemetery committee. It is advised to obtain their written approval for your plans to make it easier on your next of kin when it comes time to carry out your wishes.

Speak with your family about your wishes for the disposal of your body. Take the time to explain carefully to them why these wishes are important to you. Hopefully, this conversation will not only clarify any questions your family will have, but will also spark a broader discussion about the sustainability of modern burial practices and their alternatives.

Where Can I Obtain These Services?

Products and services needed for a more natural burial are often not readily available. Part of the pre-planning process might therefore involve ordering and purchasing these items well ahead of your death.

What Environmentally Responsible Options Exist Other than Natural Burial or Cremation?

Other options being developed are in their early stages. An article in l’Acadie Nouvelle suggests that other methods are being considered here in New Brunswick too.

www.acadienouvelle.com/actualites/2016/11/07/lincinerationprocededejadepasse/ 


One new idea suggests a combination of freezing and vibrating the remains into a soil-like material.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/aburialmachinethatwillfreezeyourcorpsevibrateittodustandturnitintosoil


Another method uses common composting techniques, although with a quicker time-frame.

http://www.naturalburialassoc.ca/urbandeathprojectcompostingyourlovedones/

http://www.attentionalaterre.com/cimetierenaturehumusation/


Resources

English Resources

Denise LeBlanc - Living & Dying Well (conference, workshop, retreat, coaching )
Memramcook, NB. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (506) 874-1112  

Jules Jones - A Mindful Death Doula Services, Riverview, NB.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 506-961-1997

Canadian Integrative Network for Death Education and Alternatives

A Good Funeral Guide Factsheet

Fiddlehead Caskets (New Brunswick)

Natural Burial Company Store (Portland USA)

Urnabios.com/urn (Biodegradable urns, Montreal Québec)

One World Memorials

Shrouding Boards

Green Burial Council Certified Products

Before You Go: Ecological Caskets and Urns: produits écologiques

Biodegradable Urns

French Resources

Mourir _ simplement (Bulletin du Réseau québécois pour la simplicité volontaire)


http://www.lapresse.ca/vivre/societe/201701/20/015061490mourirecolo.php 

Denise LeBlanc - Bien vivre & mourir ( conférence, atelier, retraite, coaching )
Memramcook, NB. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ou (506) 874-1112

Books

Grave Matters Mark Harris -Scribner 2007 http://www.gravematters.us

The Natural Death Handbook J Speyer

The New Natural Death Handbook N. Albery

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and other lessons from The Crematory  Caitlin Doughty

Upcoming activities

Tuesdays 1pm and Fridays 10am - Grande Digue wallking club

In front of Notre Centre
Facebook page of Grande-Digue walking club

Dec 10, 2019 - Regular Cocagne council meeting

6:30 p.m.
Municipal office at 17, Marina Road, unit #2 in Cocagne
Welcome to all! It will be the last meeting of Year 2019. In 2020, the first council meeting will be held on January 14th, 2020.
Ordre-du-jour-10-décembre-2019

Dec 18, 2019 - X-mas potluck and local food videos

5:00 p.m.
Blanche Bourgeois school Cafeteria at Cocagne, 29 Cormier Cross Road
Share a meal and view with us the Food skill videos (in French and English).
All GDDPC friends are welcome!
See the poster here and Facebook event here.

Our Partners

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The Pays de Cocagne in pictures

 

The Pays de Cocagne in pictures