How To Love The Earth In The Afterlife

How To Love The Earth In The Afterlife

Green is the new black -- it's time for humans to start decomposing.
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It’s time for humans to start decomposing. Not while we’re still alive, obviously, but in death. The current most popular methods for disposing of bodies of the deceased in the United States are traditional burial and cremation, but the popularity of green burials is also on the rise, and for good reason. Traditional burials involve a cocktail of toxic chemicals, and cremation usually results in the scattering of ashes which some people consider polluting the environment. The fact of the matter is, Americans who intend to have their bodies embalmed or their ashes sprinkled are complacent in furthering the environmental downfall of the Earth. Their deaths are killing our planet.

Every year, approximately two million people in the United States die, which means that every year there are approximately two million bodies that need to be buried, cremated, or otherwise put to rest. According to a set of statistics on the website for the National Funeral Directors Association, 45.4% of people who died in 2013 were cremated and the other 48.7% were buried. The remaining and mysterious 6% who were neither cremated nor buried were most likely undocumented or laid to rest with alternative methods, some of which may have been green. Cremation, while increasing in popularity and a step in the right direction, is still not the most green alternative to burial.

Before we delve into the imperfections of cremation, let’s break down the toxic practice of traditional burials. As of today, traditional burial, involving embalmment and casketing, is still the most popular way of dealing with the deceased, and that needs to change. Embalming is the process of draining the body of all its fluids and then replacing them with a chemical solution known as embalming fluid, which is mostly formaldehyde mixed with dyes and a whole concoction of toxic fluids.

To prove just how toxic embalming fluid is, Caitlin Doughty, a mortician and blogger who advocates for the reform of Western funeral practices on her website, Order of the Good Death, posed the hypothetical question: “What would happen if you were to drink just one ounce of embalming fluid?” “Oh! You would totally die,” Doughty says in her video “Ask a Mortician – Is Embalming Dangerous?”

Embalming fluid isn’t just toxic through direct ingestion either; it’s toxic to the environment and to the funeral directors who are in contact with it when embalming people. According to an article written by Ruth Miller on The Urban Fringe, a practitioners' blog, titled “Landscapes of the Dead: An Argument of Conservation Burial”, “Exposure to formaldehyde affects funeral workers’ health, demonstrated by a high incidence of leukemia and brain and colon cancer among embalmers.”

Not to mention the environmental effects the almost 830,000 gallons of embalming fluid buried in the deceased every year have as they inevitably seep out of the body. In the ghastly incidence that a cemetery should ever be flooded, gallons and gallons of formaldehyde would find its way downstream to taint streams, rivers, ponds, and perhaps even public water supplies. In other words, cemeteries are toxic waste landfills.

But there is hope, as Americans have become more eco-conscious more and more elect to choose cremation, which is much greener compared to embalming but still has its environmental issues. “While cremation has fewer harmful environmental effects than traditional burial, the cremation process releases carbon monoxide, fine soot, sulfur dioxide, and heavy metals into the atmosphere,” Miller explains. There are also environmental concerns if the person who is cremated has mercury based fillings or metal implants, and since cremation remains are sterile because of the high heat under which they are processed, they have no nutritional value to plants.

The green alternatives to traditional burial and cremation are much better for the environment and give the families of the deceased something to feel good about. There are three main types of green cemeteries, as documented by Reynard Lokis in an article called “Don't Let the Mortician Turn You Into a Superfund Site: Alternatives to Toxic Embalming” for Alternet.

First, there are Hybrid Burial Grounds, which are traditional cemeteries that allow for burial in any type of container. Then, there are Natural Burial Grounds which prohibit conventional burial containers and the burial of bodies embalmed with toxic chemicals. Lastly, there are Conservation Burial Grounds which are the strictest because they, “must protect in perpetuity an area of land specifically and exclusively designated for conservation [and] must involve an established conservation organization that holds a conservation easement or has in place a deed restriction guaranteeing long-term stewardship.”

The fact that their loved ones cannot have a conventional headstone is a factor that could turn people off to the idea of green burials, but Everett Sizemore shares his opinion on that aspect of green burials in an article called “Green Burials: How to Be Green in the Afterlife” on Gaiam.com, and the perspective he takes is refreshing. “Instead of row upon row of grayish-white tombstones, imagine being buried in a meadow of wildflowers or a peaceful forest setting,” Sizemore writes. “Imagine the comfort your loved ones will feel knowing that they can sit down and remember you while leaning against a tree that was planted above you, and which your everlasting energy feeds. In a sense, the tree is you—living on—as it was your body that provided the nutrients it needed to grow tall and strong.”

One of the major arguments in favor of traditional burial is that it preserves the body of the deceased so that their family and friends can say their final goodbyes, and since green burials prohibit embalming, the body breaks down more quickly and does not allow for as long of a visiting window. Some religions believe that the body must be preserved so that the savior or messiah can bring it into the afterlife when they return to Earth. It is this mindset of wanting to preserve our loved ones as they appeared when they were living, even in death, which holds back our culture of death in America from progressing into a more death positive tone.

As Doughty writes on a page called “Home Death Care” on her website, we used to take the care of our dead into our own homes and commune with them much more personally and intimately than we do today. “In the past 75 years the use of a funeral home has become the norm. So much so that our collective memory has forgotten that for thousands of years of human history your family was your burden from cradle to grave. There was no option to shift responsibility to a funeral director or mortician. You washed the body, shrouded or dressed the body, sat with the body, and finally accompanied the body to the grave or crematory,” Doughty says.

This personal relationship with our dead is something that conventional funeral practices take away from us, but that green funerals promote. While you don’t have to make a green funeral into a home death care service, it is much easier to do so than it would be for a conventional funeral.

We ship off our dead to be taken care of by someone else, to be sterilized and cleaned, to be made the opposite of what death is, and for what purpose? To ease our own suffering and grief? Perhaps. To avoid having to deal with the gravity of their death? Possibly.

The bottom line is this: preserving the human body with toxic chemicals so that it will remain looking as it did in life is unnatural. In our present culture of death, whether we would like to admit it or not, we are afraid of the natural decomposition of the human body after death. “The elaborate expensive display of an open casket with all the makeup in the slumber room enforces the belief that the person is only asleep and in my personal opinion would only help prolong the state of denial,” says Elizabeth Kübler-Ross as quoted by Caitlin Doughty on her website.

The relatively new practice of embalming is poisoning our globe and is extremely unnatural and it needs to stop, but often times families are hesitant to go a more natural route. By having their loved ones embalmed or cremated they are able to avoid fully accepting their death by avoiding the natural decay and “preserving” the final image of a life-like body, when they should be more focused on preserving their loved ones in mind and spirit. Green funerals offer a more natural burial process that is much better for the Earth, but on top of that they also promote a more positive and personal relationship with our deceased.

It is ironic that the funerals which we consider to be traditional, embalming and cremation, could not be farther from it. It is through a green funeral process that we return to the traditional roots of our culture of death in America, the culture of death that was present before the Civil War and the use of embalming. In the case of the funeral industry, we need to take a step backwards in time in order to take a positive and eco-friendly step forwards in the culture of death in the United States.

Cover Image Credit: Death Maiden Blogspot

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15 Things Only Lake People Will Understand

There's no other place you'd rather be in the summer.
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The people that spend their summers at the lake are a unique group of people. Whether you grew up going to the lake, have only recently started going, or have only been once or twice, you know it takes a certain kind of person to be a lake person. To the long-time lake people, the lake holds a special place in your heart, no matter how dirty the water may look. Every year when summer rolls back around, you can't wait to fire up the boat and get back out there. Here is a list of things you can probably identify with as a fellow lake-goer.

1. A bad day at the lake is still better than a good day not at the lake.

It's your place of escape, where you can leave everything else behind and just enjoy the beautiful summer day. No matter what kind of week you had, being able to come and relax without having to worry about anything else is the best therapy there is. After all, there's nothing better than a day of hanging out in the hot sun, telling old funny stories and listening to your favorite music.

2. You know the best beaches and coves to go to.

Whether you want to just hang out and float or go walk around on a beach, you know the best spots. These often have to be based on the people you're with, given that some "party coves" can get a little too crazy for little kids on board. I still have vivid memories from when I was six that scared me when I saw the things drunk girls would do for beads.

3. You have no patience for the guy who can’t back his trailer into the water right.

When there's a long line of trucks waiting to dump their boats in the water, there's always that one clueless guy who can't get it right, and takes 5 attempts and holds up the line. No one likes that guy. One time my dad got so fed up with a guy who was taking too long that he actually got out of the car and asked this guy if he could just do it for him. So he got into the guy's car, threw it in reverse, and got it backed in on the first try. True story.

4. Doing the friendly wave to every boat you pass.

Similar to the "jeep wave," almost everyone waves to other boats passing by. It's just what you do, and is seen as a normal thing by everyone.

5. The cooler is always packed, mostly with beer.

Alcohol seems to be a big part of the lake experience, but other drinks are squeezed into the room remaining in the cooler for the kids, not to mention the wide assortment of chips and other foods in the snack bag.

6. Giving the idiot who goes 30 in a "No Wake

Zone" a piece of your mind.

There's nothing worse than floating in the water, all settled in and minding your business, when some idiot barrels through. Now your anchor is loose, and you're left jostled by the waves when it was nice and perfectly still before. This annoyance is typically answered by someone yelling some choice words to them that are probably accompanied by a middle finger in the air.

7. You have no problem with peeing in the water.

It's the lake, and some social expectations are a little different here, if not lowered quite a bit. When you have to go, you just go, and it's no big deal to anyone because they do it too.

8. You know the frustration of getting your anchor stuck.

The number of anchors you go through as a boat owner is likely a number that can be counted on two hands. Every once in a while, it gets stuck on something on the bottom of the lake, and the only way to fix the problem is to cut the rope, and you have to replace it.

9. Watching in awe at the bigger, better boats that pass by.

If you're the typical lake-goer, you likely might have an average sized boat that you're perfectly happy with. However, that doesn't mean you don't stop and stare at the fast boats that loudly speed by, or at the obnoxiously huge yachts that pass.

10. Knowing any swimsuit that you own with white in it is best left for the pool or the ocean.

You've learned this the hard way, coming back from a day in the water and seeing the flowers on your bathing suit that were once white, are now a nice brownish hue.

11. The momentary fear for your life as you get launched from the tube.

If the driver knows how to give you a good ride, or just wants to specifically throw you off, you know you're done when you're speeding up and heading straight for a big wave. Suddenly you're airborne, knowing you're about to completely wipe out, and you eat pure wake. Then you get back on and do it all again.

12. You're able to go to the restaurants by the water wearing minimal clothing.

One of the many nice things about the life at the lake is that everybody cares about everything a little less. Rolling up to the place wearing only your swimsuit, a cover-up and flip flops, you fit right in. After a long day when you're sunburned, a little buzzed, and hungry, you're served without any hesitation.

13. Having unexpected problems with your boat.

Every once in a while you're hit with technical difficulties, no matter what type of watercraft you have. This is one of the most annoying setbacks when you're looking forward to just having a carefree day on the water, but it's bound to happen. This is just one of the joys that come along with being a boat owner.

14. Having a name for your boat unique to you and your life.

One of the many interesting things that make up the lake culture is the fact that many people name their boats. They can range from basic to funny, but they are unique to each and every owner, and often have interesting and clever meanings behind them.

15. There's no better place you'd rather be in the summer.

Summer is your all-time favorite season, mostly because it's spent at the lake. Whether you're floating in the cool water under the sun, or taking a boat ride as the sun sets, you don't have a care in the world at that moment. The people that don't understand have probably never experienced it, but it's what keeps you coming back every year.


Cover Image Credit: Haley Harvey

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21 Things To Do In Blacksburg, VA This Summer When You're Bored

Despite loving all the free time that summer in Blacksburg has to offer, there comes a time that there is simply too much time in a day and that's when boredom strikes.

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Being bored is like the unwanted summer trend — it's bound to happen at least once. So, in order to be prepared for when the boredom hits, take a look at this list for some ideas of how to spend that time!

1. Find a new show

Find a different Netflix show to binge watch — something that isn't like your normal show.

2. Take a Power Nap (or a nap in General)

Rest that pretty head of yours and give it some time off

3. Start a Garden

Succulents are really in right now and they are super easy to plant and care for! (unless you're like me and you kill anything that grows)

4. Go see that movie you've been wanting to see

Even if it's by yourself.

5. Plan a last-minute road trip

Grab your bff or S/O and hit the road. Go check out that waterfall that everyone's been posting about or that cliff diving spot that may or may not be illegal.

6. Try something new

Like yoga or running. Literally anything that you haven't done before, or in a while, counts. So, just do it.

7. Color

I'm biased on this one because this is what I do to relieve stress but when you're bored, what do you have to lose? Give it a try & it might help lower your stress levels too!

8. Browse Zillow

I do this all the time — it could easily take up an entire day

9. Figure out a way to make more money

May I suggest going through your closet and getting rid of the clothes that haven't seen the sun since you bought them?

10. Paint your nails

Honestly, self-pampering is the best way to spend your time

11. Go on a walk

Go on a walk to clear your mind of the day or current issues that have been stressing you out. Take this time out of your day to just simply be.

12. Make a cocktail

Experiment with your favorite drinks so you can have a new concoction to show your friends when tailgating season starts.

13. Browse through new hairstyles

Is it really summer if you don't switch up your hairdo?

14. Stretch

So many people underestimate the power of stretching but trust me, you will find out that you have muscles that you didn't even know existed. It's also a great way to clear your head and to just take in your surroundings.

15. Make a vision board

Even if you already have one, you can replace the things that you have already completed with new things that you want to conquer in the coming year!

16. Go through your pictures

On Facebook. On your phone. On your computer. If you're anything like me, this could take multiple days to go through them all. Plus, what better way to kill some time than traveling down memory lane?

17. Go through your emails

If you're only of those people who just read the important stuff and leave everything else then this one is for you! Clean up that inbox and minimize the junk that's in it!

18. Update your resume

Or learn how to make a resume. Either way, it's important to have an up-to-date one so you can have it ready to go when you have a new job opportunity.

19. Pick a book in the Bible & start reading

It's very intimidating to say "read the bible" because let's face it, that thing is huge & it will stare you down until you walk away. But seriously, grab your Bible, take it outside, and just open it up to one of the books to start reading.

20. Organize something

There is always something in your life that can be organized. Maybe your closet needs some help or your bathroom cabinet has gotten a little to junky. Oh, don't forget about your car — I'm sure that could use a bit of help.

21. Call up an old friend

Yes, I said call. It takes up a lot more time than a simple "hey" text or an email with a life update. Besides, it's a lot more personal and I'm sure they would love to hear your voice.

Cover Image Credit:

Hannah King

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