A Lasting Last Carbon Footprint

Eternal Reefs LogoIt was 69-year-old Carole Dunham’s last request: she would like to “be a home for fish.” That’s right; she wanted her remains to construct an artificial, underwater reef.

Valerie Streit, of CNN, wrote an article highlighting the Green Burial Council, a nonprofit organization that accommodates the last wishes of those who desire to minimize their final carbon footprint. Streit quotes only the eco-friendly death-care providers, ignoring any who might be oppose this particular type of “burial.”

Streit writes that while dying may be very natural, modern burying rituals such as “formaldehyde-based solutions” and “concrete vaults” are not at all “nature-friendly.” The Green Burial Council's executive director Joe Sehee supported the basis for Streit’s point by saying that “We can rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge with that amount of metal,” he said referring to Streit’s figure that the U.S. buries 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, and 90,000 tons of steal each year. “The amount of concrete is enough to build a two-lane highway from New York to Detroit,” he said.

But there’s more to burial than just the body. The story ignored what eco-burial means for Americans with religious belief. Traditionally, Catholics have strictly practiced burials and not cremation of the deceased body because cremation can be viewed as a dismissal of the belief in the resurrection of the body and was commonly practiced in pagan cultures. Streit failed to include any religious figure’s opinion in the piece.

Eternal Reefs, a company approved by the Green Burial Council, provided the memorial reef for Carole Dunham’s final request. “We're the surf and turf of natural burial,” CEO of Eternal Reefs George Frankel said in the article. According to the web site, “Eternal Reefs offers a new memorial choice that replaces cremation urns and ash scattering with a permanent environmental living legacy.”

Streit also highlighted a slightly creepier “green” phenomenon: coffin couches. “While it might be a bit macabre for some, CoffinCouches.com sells eclectic couches made out of used coffins,” Streit writes.

CNN isn’t the first network to cover green funerals. ABC’s “Good Morning America” featured a segment on green funerals in July 2008 and CNN has also featured green burials before, in a May 2007 piece about those “going green as their final gift to the Earth.”

Environment Religion Culture/Society Anti-Religious Bias Religious Right ABC CNN.com Valerie Streit Joe Sehee Carole Dunham