You drove a Prius and bought carbon offsets. Whenever you could, you biked to work. You schlepped cloth bags to the grocery store—most of the time. You actually gave Greenpeace canvassers the time of day, and you forked over hard-earned cash to the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. You ate countless pounds of chard from a one-acre, biodiesel-powered organic farm in Troutdale. You installed solar panels and channeled your gutter downspouts into rain barrels. You treated the weekly recycling sort as a commandment from Gaia.
Well done. Now, however, things have changed: you’re dead. Whither your hard-earned green credentials now that relatives are pawing through your organic cotton wardrobe and divvying up your certified-forest-friendly furniture?
Do not despair. Well, actually, go ahead—it’s never fun to contemplate your own mortality. Especially when Americans’ burials consume, every year, nearly a million gallons of toxic embalming fluid, over 90,000 tons of energy-intensive steel, and more than 30 million board feet of wood, much of it tropical hardwood harvested and imported for caskets. But for those who want to ease the environmental damage done in the name of their own passing, there is some good news: sustainable practices and products are slowly infiltrating the behemoth American funeral industry, making it possible to reduce the carbon footprint of your final act. While a state-of-the-art natural burial—in which a body is allowed to biodegrade in a parklike setting to become, essentially, human compost—isn’t widely available in Portland, there are plenty of options for “going” green. But like so many aspects of this particular inevitability, greening up your own death requires a little gloomy research—but, as a bonus, you get to shop for some cool, cutting-edge consumer goods. Not that you’ll actually get to enjoy them, but still.