Going green is usually something that gets us from point A to B; whether further on lightening the load on the planet or farther down the road in a cleaner, greener car.
When put in the context of end-of-life choices though, going green is a sustainable burial practice in which we leave behind a carbon footprint that is absorbed naturally.
“We can dispose of human remains in a way that is better for the environment that doesn’t have the same kind of ecological footprint or environmental footprint that our traditional practices have had," says Philip Olson, professor of Science, Technology and Society at Virginia Tech. He says the modern green burial movement appeared in the UK in the early 90s.
"Partly, as a response to land use for cemeteries and trying to find a way of burying human remains without rendering the space in which human bodies are buried, kind of rendering them set apart.”
Olson comes from a family in the funeral business and has thought about the human lifecycle for much of his own. "So like a green cemetery is a place where people can take a hike or have a picnic and there’s an interest also in protecting the environment and not burying bodies that are embalmed or in caskets that are not biodegradable.”
Olson has organized a showing of the documentary called, “Dying Green” which explores new ideas for green burial. “This is an area, of environmentalism that’s a large area; I mean, everybody will die. So we must think about what we’re going to do with human remains when people die and the idea, here is that, hey let’s bring the insights of environmentalism, conservation science, restoration ecology to bear on our decisions regarding the disposal of human remains.”
There’s a free screening of “Dying Green,” followed by the panel discussion and Q&A at the Lyric Theater in Blacksburg. That starts at 6 pm this Thursday, March 20th.