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Living and leaving as an environmentalist

October 4th,2023 | Valley Voices

By Stéphanie-Ann Brisson

Have you made any plans for your burial yet? Is it something you ever think or talk about? If you are like most people, the answer is no because, in this part of the world, talking about death and the nitty-gritty details of what to do with our bodies after we die is often perceived as morbid. Yet death is the most natural and guaranteed event that will happen to absolutely everyone. Although difficult to think and talk about, it is important if you care about the environmental impact of your death. 

The funeral industry has greatly monopolized the culture of death and how we think about it.

Unfortunately, this industry currently does not have the planet or your environmental interests as a priority. You might be surprised to learn that many common funerary methods are far from environmentally friendly. Burials often involve using toxic embalming fluids that leach into the earth over time and non-degradable grave liners to keep gravesites looking flat — techniques that are good for preserving a body (sometimes indefinitely) but terrible for the environment. Even cremations release harmful emissions like carbon monoxide and mercury into the air and soil. 

The most environmentally sound option is by far natural burial. A natural burial, also often referred to as green burial, is the burial of a body that is not embalmed and is put in the ground in a shroud or container made of non-toxic, biodegradable materials. The shrouded body or casket is not covered by a grave liner or burial vault. The grave is marked with natural markers like surrounding trees stones or memorialized communally rather than with traditional headstones. 

In Quebec, natural burial is a bit complicated. For example, shroud-only burials are illegal here, and some of the elements of the burial process, like transport and administrative duties, must be performed by a funeral home. But with some basic knowledge and partnering with an educated funeral home, you can ensure your death is as natural and environmentally sound as possible. En Terre Outaouais, a local grassroots group interested in the environmental impact of the funeral industry, has done a lot of work over the years to gather as much knowledge as possible on the subject. The group has also reached out to various funeral homes in the area to create a network of allies that can help us achieve an environmentally-friendly death.

En Terre Outaouais is also looking for more people from the area to join the group so that together, we can work towards acquiring land and building our very own natural burial ground in the area.

If you want to know more about how you can make environmentally sound decisions and plans for your burial so that you can die as you live – loving this planet and wanting to take good care of it – then come and spend some time at the Wakefield Farmers’ Market, Saturday, Oct. 7 and talk with the members of En Terre Outaouais.

Stéphanie-Ann Brisson is a member of En Terre Outaouais.

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