Sonia Elks writes at Al Jazeera English:
On a beautiful sunny afternoon, Eva Moseley wanders through a tranquil wooded area in Massachusetts, pointing out various beauty spots amid the dappled sunlight and spreading trees.
It’s a visit with a purpose – she is looking for the spot where she would like to be buried in a simple woodland ceremony.
Ms Moseley plans to be laid to rest in a shallow grave, without a large headstone, in a simple wood and cardboard coffin.
Her funeral plans are a far cry from the traditional American burial, which has become increasingly elaborate in the past 150 years.
In funeral showrooms across the US, salesman push grieving families towards the heavy, polished metal caskets used in more than 60 percent of burials in the country.
Two million of these caskets are buried each year in the US alone – enough to rebuild the Golden Gate bridge, according to the Green Burial Council.
Families are also encouraged to have their loved ones filled with carcinogenic embalming fluid to briefly delay decomposition, and to protect the coffin with an underground vault made of concrete.
Cremations, which are often thought of as a more environmentally friendly option, use huge amounts of energy and release toxins collected in the body into the atmosphere, along with significant amounts of mercury from tooth fillings.
It all adds up to a huge ecological expense – and it is not cheap either, with the average American adult’s funeral cost running to an average of $10,000.
“There is this whole thing that if you’re not buying some elaborate box and spending a lot of money, you’re not really honouring your loved one,” said Moseley.
“I mean there’s a lot of plain bulls**t about this stuff.”
She is one of a growing number of campaigners for the “green burial” movement, which aims to roll back the excesses of modern western funerals.
“What we call ‘green burial’ is really what all of us simply called ‘burial’ 150 years ago, and is pretty much what Jews and Muslims practice in their burial traditions,” said Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers’ Alliance in the US.
“I always like to point out to people that it isn’t a technological new way of doing things but more a return to old-fashioned simplicity.”
The movement can trace its beginnings to the publication of a powerful exposé of the American funeral industry in 1963. Its author, Jessica Mitford, accused funeral directors of taking advantage of the grief and shock of the bereaved to push them into paying huge sums for overblown memorials and gruesome procedures to prettify corpses.
Read more here.