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A Garden of Possibilities
Indeed, the green burial movement is developing in concert with other death awareness movements that are happening right now—including the rise of death cafés, where people gather over tea and cake to talk about life's final act, and a growing trend toward home funerals, which allow family and friends to take a more active role in caring for the dead and preparing loved ones' bodies for burial. Companies are developing new products such as Coeio's Infinity Burial Suit, which is made out of mushrooms that help detoxify the body as it decomposes, and the Bios Urn, marketed as the world's first biodegradable urn, that's designed to convert your cremains into a tree (you can choose between maple, pine, gingko, beech, and ash).
Yet people like Kelly are wary of commercializing the trend (a mushroom suit will cost you $1,500; the Bios Urn is $145). In her work helping to create Rhinebeck's Natural Burial Ground—which became the second municipal green burial ground in New York State—she received second-level certification for the project from the Green Burial Council, so that people can be assured of what they're getting without being greenwashed. The burial ground abides by certain rules—chiefly, no embalming, no burial vaults, and only burial containers that are biodegradable. Accessible by a carriage road, the 10-acre woods makes for a magical setting for last good-byes, which can take any shape. "Preplanning is key, which means letting your loved ones know what you want. Which is hard for a lot of folks," says Kelly.
"My dad was not a religious person, but you could almost say that nature was his religion," says Gouge about Reiss. "He found peace being among the trees." And he still does.