As a minimal waste enthusiast I find it concerning that funeral products are only used a single time before being buried, cremated or aquamated. Recently I shared a photo of a casket “cemetery” in Hawaii picturing many thousands of dollars worth of caskets that had been disposed of after being used for visual reasons in funerals. After the funeral, the deceased would be removed from the expensive casket and placed into a simple, sturdy cardboard casket for cremation and the decorative casket was thrown into landfill. Surplus to requirement. While this does not happen everywhere, the other option is for the expensive, hardwood casket to be cremated (causing extra energy to be used in order to complete a full cremation) or interred into the earth, where it will take many hundreds of years to biodegrade. All this ecological damage for something that costs thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars and is typically only used for 3-5 days.
So, what are the options? Funeral products are, as the name suggests, for funerals. A coffin can only be a coffin and a shroud can only be a shroud. Right? Well, not necessarily.
Funeral products can be used in other ways, for other reasons. We can live with our future coffin and use it practically in our homes, we just need to work past the stigma surrounding death and death related products and, well maybe get a bit creative!
For example, caskets have been used by enterprising people as coffee tables or bookcases. Rectangular caskets are perfect bookcases, the lid can be altered into shelves and suddenly you have an item that is not only providing a useful service but is also gathering scars from the everyday life of you and your family. When you are finally laid to rest in it it will no longer be just a box, a means to an end, but a loved family possession that has served a purpose throughout a lifetime and can now provide a meaningful final resting place.
Coffins do not have to be square or Dracula shaped, they can be oval as well. A colleague of ours uses a stunning oval coffin as a coffee table in her formal lounge. Not only does it look elegant and opulent but it has great storage! Once again, it will get scratched and damaged throughout the years which will only enhance the personal connection between it and it’s final owner, not a brand new coffin off a shelf but a well used and valued piece of furniture.
Even urns can be used in this way. If cremation or aquamation is the preferred method of death care then an urn may be required. There are so many options of urns I could write a whole blog just on them; tall rectangular prisms to flat square boxes, traditional pottery shapes to wood turned artistic vases, the options are almost endless. These items could be employed in so many useful ways, vases for dried flower arrangements, document boxes or stationary holders, even storage containers (small toys like marbles or ooshies) or even ornaments. We are hoping to provide wood turned urns in the near future which are just beautiful, they could be used for a whole host of storage or decorative situations before they are finally interred into the ground and allowed to biodegrade.
Finally (for this blog at least and I would love to hear any suggestions you may have for pre-using funeral items) are shrouds. Shrouds, particularly our soft bamboo fleece shroud, can easily be used as an oversized, cuddle blanket or something a bit more unusual! A trend that is becoming increasingly popular is shrouded meditation, or shrouded Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation), which as a yoga teacher really resonates with me. Meditation is such a deeply moving and awakening experience in itself that when it is coupled with a shrouded experience it leads to a whole new dimension of tranquillity. People find themselves reconnecting with past loved ones, making peace with lost relatives and re-evaluating their own mortality and place in the world. Having been shrouded many times now I can attest to the tranquillity privacy and security you feel wrapped in the softness of the fabric. It is very easy to float into the serenity you get in a deep meditation or Yoga Nidra.
Unfortunately the main issue in pre-using funeral products is not a perceived unusefulness but an inherent superstition and ostracisation hampering any real idea of having these items in your home. The more we can talk about them and include them in our lives the less stigma they will have and consequently they will contribute less to the overall wastefulness of the death industry.
By Tamsin Ramone