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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Writing Out Green Burial/Home Funerals in Colorado?

From USA Today, more proof of eco burial's growing purchase on the American consciousness: nearly 65% of green-leaning adults say that they are considering or would consider a natural return, were it possible.

The latest funereal stats blipped on my radar just as I was studying Colorado House Bill 1202: Concerning the Regulation of Persons Who Provide for the Final Disposition of Dead Human Bodies in the Normal Course of Business.

Talk about a study in contrasts.

On one hand, an indication of green burial's broadening appeal. On the other, a funeral bill that never directly addresses green burial, natural return, home funerals, or their providers -- although there's plenty said about funeral directors, mortuary science practitioners, cremationist, embalmers, funeral establishments and their services.

In other words: a bill that treats the most major shift to U.S. funeral traditions since Civil War surgeons began embalming Union casualties as if it practically doesn't exist or, at the very least, doesn't much matter. In this bill, the modern funeral is the only (end) game in town.

Little wonder DIYers are protesting. As some see it, HB 1202 not only marginalizes them but threatens their ability to carry out their family- and earth-friendly practices.

The Colorado Funeral Directors Association helped write the bill, whose stated and worthy goal is to offer greater protection to funeral-buying families in a state that affords little. As for concerns about the new bill's limiting a family's right to green burial and home funerals, CFDA contends that those rights are in fact retained in legal statues elsewhere.

If that's true, then the best solution may be this: To re-craft a consumer protection bill that not only shields Centennial Staters from bad funeral practices and their agents but that ALSO spells out their right to care for their own dead, from filing death certificates and buying third-party caskets to waking and laying out their loved ones in their own homes, without the aid of a funeral director.

While we're at it, let's go ahead and name and define the funeral practices -- and practitioners -- that more and more Colorado families are turning to when death comes calling, including green burial and home funerals.

For families, the solution would be a double win. They'd get the consumer protections they deserve and the clearly-stated right to take the care of their dead into their own hands.

As I write this, HB has been sent back to committee for revision, to address some of the concerns above.

I didn’t post this soon enough. On April 22, HB 1202 passed through committee, with amendments. It now moves to further committee consideration and then onto a Senate vote. Natural Transitions, a Boulder-based home funeral advocacy, continues to have reservations about the bill. For more information, click here.

There is one win for supporters of natural return in Colorado. The most significant change to the proposed bill involved the adoption of a separate amendment that will more specifically allow for home funerals and green burial.

For anyone interested in learning more about -- and seeing images from -- the green burial movement, I'll be giving a number of presentations in the coming weeks. Most are free and open to the public.

May 3: Rochester (NY)
May 17: Philadelphia
May 18: Montreal
May 20: Ithaca
May 21: Syracuse

For more information, click here.

The video above features Ken West, a promoter of green burial in the U.K. who opened the country's first natural cemetery in Carlisle, in 1991.

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Grave Matters

Facebook page for the book on green burial, Grave Matters, with updates on the growing movement.