Dying to be green


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In Lismore, they are hoping to offer an even more hands-on approach for family and friends.

"We would like to give people the option to come into the site and actually dig the grave," says Kris Whitney, coordinator of Lismore Memorial Garden.

At some point professional assistance is provided to ensure the grave meets standards, but Whitney likes the idea of giving ownership of a funeral back to the loved ones.

"The funeral industry takes everything off your hands, but a lot of people don't like that idea; they want to be involved."

In some cases, the deceased themselves take a more active role in their funeral - well before the event, of course. "Lots of people here build their own coffins," says Virago.

She describes how one man in the prime of life decided to build and carve the coffin in which he would eventually be buried. Once it was complete, it sat on the front porch like an old friend, collecting shoes and household bits and pieces and becoming steadily more weathered over nearly a decade.

When the time came for the man to be buried, the sight of the coffin held no fear, as it had become such a familiar presence and part of the family's life. Another resident held his wake before he died, and used the event to raise money for charity.

Whether you want your eulogy read to you while you're still able to enjoy it, wish to be buried in a bamboo egg or rest your weary bones under a big tree, it's important to plan in advance, says Virago.

While the funeral industry is beginning to offer more green choices, it's more difficult to arrange a green funeral under pressure than it is to think through the details well before the day comes.

At 77, Roger Short has certainly thought about his final resting place. "I'd always decided I was going to be cremated," he says. "I liked the idea of my ashes being blown over Scotland."

But since discovering the environmental cost of cremation, he has now changed his tune and plans to be buried when he shuffles off this mortal coil.

"I've found a lovely oak tree I'm going to settle under, and that feels really good."

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