Options, opportunities and openings: The Impacts of Greening your Death

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Options, opportunities and openings are the promise of greening your death, in particular what happens to you after you die. For those of you who couldn’t join us at the May 28 gathering, here’s a wee snapshot of what unfolded at our first of two Greening Your Death workshops (the 2nd event is June 25, see below for details). We hope the following information supports you in your personal learning, wherever you are and whether you have days or decades to live.

What is it about greening your death that matters most?

Although we were learning about the environmental impacts of conventional burial and cremation, as with all things WILLOW, our starting point was self-reflection. Nowadays, we have a tendency to get very technical when considering the environmental impact of, well, just about anything. This workshop created an opportunity to pause and ponder. We asked, why does greening your death matter to you or, more specifically, what is it about greening your death that matters most?

It’s our view that if we better understand our “why” we’re more capable of identifying and manifesting the “what” and the “how”, while keeping the big picture in mind.

Here are some of the possible responses that participants ranked and then discussed in pairs.

What is it about greening YOUR death that matters most?

  • Minimizing environmental degradation
  • Augmenting ecological restoration
  • Land conservation
  • Nourishing/and or fuelling other life
  • Spiritual values
  • Other

Inside our large group discussion we heard that the simple act of asking this question opened up a torrent of unexpected thoughts and feelings about all sorts of things including our personal and collective:

  • relationship and history with religion
  • emerging spiritual practices (that may or may not be associated with any religion)
  • family traditions
  • social and political activism
  • values alignment
  • personal integrity
  • life philosophies
  • our place in the natural world

We played a fun TRUE or FALSE Greening Your Death Quiz as a way to get into some of the details and realities of current after-death care practices in Canada. Note that legislation governing funeral and cemetery services varies between countries and jurisdictions within.

Here’s few excerpts from the quiz. Give it your best shot! The answers are at the bottom of the blog.


  1. Caskets/ containers can be made of reclaimed wood.
  2. Some type of green burial is available in most cities in Canada.
  3. In Greater Vancouver it’s possible to reuse a burial plot for many generations.
  4. Some (flame-based) cremation retorts (machines) burn more efficiently than others.
  5. Cremated remains provide good nutrition for growing trees.
  6. Only certified funeral providers can transport dead people in their vehicles.

We provided participants with some links to nonprofit organizations that exist to educate, advocate and promote options for greening your death, including but not exclusively, green burial. We hope you find them useful too!

Green Burial Society of Canada

Green Burial Council North America

Natural Death Centre – Association of Natural Burial Grounds UK

Natural Death Care Centre Australia

Donating your organs or your whole body, if circumstances allow for these wishes to be honoured, are ways to nurture other life and thus—for some people—a way to green their death. To learn more about these options search for your local transplant or body donation programs.

Finally, your local regulatory body, the equivalent to our Consumer Protection British Columbia, is there to protect and educate you as a consumer and to regulate the funeral, cemetery and crematorium sectors. There is no shortage of information available, its up to us to educate and empower ourselves.

On June 25th, at our next Greening Your Death workshop in Vancouver, we’ll recap a little bit and then shift our focus to learning about other greening options (aside from green burial) that are available here, elsewhere or are in development. We’ll also explore the concept of deep ecology, and what you can do to move forward and mindfully get organized for your own inevitable death. If you are interested and available, please register here for this upcoming free event.

What about you?

What is it about greening your death that matters most?

Answers to the TRUE or FALSE quiz:

1.True     2. False     3. True     4. True     5. False     6. False (in British Columbia and most jurisdictions in Canada)

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