Sustainability creeps into Vail Valley coffins |

Sustainability creeps into Vail Valley coffins

Cassie Pence
Eagle County CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Ecoffins USA LLC

VAI LVALLEY, Colorado “-Some in Colorado’s Vail Valley are taking their eco-conscience to the grave.

Instead of choosing the traditional hardwood, steel or concrete coffins, which can take 50 years (or never) to biodegrade, people are choosing to be buried in a sustainable casket that breaks down quickly. These plant-based coffins return bodies to the land to decay naturally, replenishing nutrients in the soil and sustaining the natural eco system.

“We sell primarily through funeral homes to baby boomers who don’t want to put unnatural chemicals, like embalming chemicals, wood varnishes or steel, into the ground,” Joanna Passarelli says, marketing director for Ecoffins, a company based in Montrose that makes sustainable caskets. “People see this as their final green act.”

Ecoffins are fashioned from bamboo, banana sheaves or pandanus, wild pineapple and an alternative to seagrass, which is currently under threat from coastal development. The coffins are crafted in a fair trade certified factory in Indonesia, and no glues or metal fasteners are used. So the coffin is free from formaldehyde, pesticides and other preservatives. Ecoffins are also a less expensive alternative to traditional burial containers.

Passarelli will exhibit a few Ecoffins at this year’s Healthy Home Fair and Tour, happening June 20 at Nottingham Park in Avon. She’ll be on hand to talk with people about different burial options.

“A lot of people are uneducated about the whole funeral process. They think you have to follow a set of rules. The government regulates funeral homes and undertakers, but they don’t regulate people. You can bury your own mother if you want,” Passarelli says.

These Ecoffins are part of a bigger emerging trend ” green burial sites. Unlike traditional cemeteries, where land and water pollution is a big problem, these natural cemeteries have no manicured lawns, no herbicides, no embalming fluids or metal vaults. There are no tombstones marking the burial, either. Instead, a green cemetery takes place in a natural environment where native flora and wildlife flourish.

There are even some cemeteries, certified by the Green Burial Council, that double as preserved open spaces. According to the council, conservation burial grounds “must protect in perpetuity an area of land specifically and exclusively designated for conservation.” A conservation burial ground must involve an established conservation organization that holds a conservation easement or has in place a deed restriction guaranteeing long-term stewardship.

Green cemeteries are gaining steam in the East, where open space is scarce, and in Briggsdale, Prairie Wilderness Cemeteries is on its way to offer Coloradans green burial sites.

Passarelli says some of her clients, especially in the West, buy the Ecoffin for funerals at home.

“There is a renewed interest in home funerals,” Passarelli says. “Before undertakers were around, people used to bury their own dead. Some people want to reclaim that right.”

Cassie Pence is a freelance writer based in Vail. She volunteers for the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability and the Healthy Home Fair and Tour.

What: Healthy Home Fair and Tour

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 20

Where: Nottingham Park in Avon

Cost: Free

Information: Fair showcases the ideas, products and services that are shaping the green revolution. Shuttles from Nottingham Park will take festival-goers to tour two, sustainable homes in Edwards.

Ecoffins ”

Green Burial Council ”

Prairie Wilderness Cemeteries ”

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