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Writing Sample #1 (Blog Article for class)

The Art of Communicating Green Burial by Kyla Scherr

Source: www.funeralfuturist.com Source: www.nrdc.org Source: www.post-gazette.com

Green Burial Pittsburgh (GBP) spreads awareness of an alternative burial method not only throughout
the local region but also across state borders via the novelty of its existence and social media
networking. At first glance, a type of funeral service classified as “green” may seem like an attempt to
piggyback on the modern environmental movement in the Western world. But whereas green burial
utilizes the terminology of a popular movement, it does not exploit it through greenwashing techniques
commonly employed in the food industry (1).

In fact, the goal of independent green burial businesses in America seems more linked to environmental
causes than profits. Many green burial sites including GBP register as non-profit charities. Keeping this in
mind, they rely on public participation and donations so they must advertise. Green burial continues to
slowly gain popularity in the United States by appealing to the public's perception of nature's beauty and
human customs. Specifically, it offers a way for people to connect with the earth's history and future.

Traditionally, families used to care for deceased loved ones at home in the days leading up to their
burials, temporarily placing them in cold rooms of the house as a means of preservation (2). Large scale
carnage during the Civil War necessitated embalming and coffins because recovered soldiers had to be
transported long distances to their families’ homesteads (3). Now the public must relearn what a natural
burial entails and, more importantly, the significance of it in today’s context.

Reaching out to Americans on the subject of death is not easy, though, because they don't typically
contemplate their own mortality outside of a religious or spiritual setting. If they focus on the afterlife of
their souls, they don't always consider the deterioration of their bodies. They focus on life--not death (4).
Notably, higher education may force individuals to examine this psychology in philosophy courses and
green burial itself may be brought up in the classes of an environmental major. Still, reaching out to
people who do not have these opportunities and do not want to research this subject remains
challenging.

Despite this difficult barrier, green burial has infiltrated the mainstream media, most notably through the
HBO narrative drama “Six Feet Under.” Airing from 2001-05, the series followed the Fishers who lived
and worked in a family-owned funeral home. Green burial arose in Season 4 and appealed to free
spirited and idealistic characters, most notably Nate Fisher. Although the show recognizes the humor of
the unpredictability of death, its characters always respect the deceased. There is a special reverence
paid towards green burials in particular as displayed through the delicateness by which these burial
scenes are approached.

Indeed, “Six Feet Under” brought attention to green burial, but it could not fundamentally change
culturally-reinforced norms. Even if individuals choose not to have a conventional burial, they almost
always pick the most immediate alternative, cremation, partly because it costs much less than the former
(5). Given the prevalence of other burial methods, it's interesting to see how green burials are promoted
and what words and imageries are used to distinguish them.

GBP has described green burial as natural and stresses the simplicity and thoughtfulness of this funeral
service (6). In this way, it subtly denotes that people who choose green burial have both depth and a
sense of responsibility. Furthermore, emotive music and community are shown in visual advertisements
further enticing individuals by making
them feel. GBP selectively uses
humor also in a bumper sticker catch
phrase that reads: "Green Burial is the
Way to Go." In contrast, North
Carolina company, Bury Me Naturally,
has employed humor in an extreme
way. Their admittedly confusing web based commercial uses a bizarre voice over and chime music to
assumedly build intrigue (7), but may result in polarizing viewers. There is a fine balance between raising
awareness and controversy.

If the main goal of green burial is to draw in participants to help the environment, then reaching out to
environmentalists may work. Still, it's hard to convince people from out of state to choose a funeral
service simply because of its environmental merits.

Green burials are also being offered by conventionally run funeral homes, and this may be the key to
reach the masses. For example, even though GBP is “Pennsylvania’s first exclusively green cemetery”
(8), it is not the only natural burial site in the state (9). Therefore, most people may actually become
aware of green burial through these more prevalent funeral homes.

This raises questions, though, as to how eco-friendly green burial is if it's performed by businesses that
mostly promote conventional burial. Conventional burial practices pollute the environment through the
use of formaldehyde, metals and chemical fertilizers (5). By design, the pollutants do not stay at points of
burial plots, but spread out into surrounding soil (10). As such, there’s no barrier to prevent them from
leaching into designated green burial plots. Because green burial itself does not result in its own
pollutants, though, it does arguably provide individuals with an accessible, aesthetically pleasing and
healthy burial option.

Hopefully, as green burial continues to gain attention, consumer demand will initiate a call for more
truthfully eco-friendly burial sites where they can rest in peace.

References
1. Ross, D. and Deck Jr., D.W. Business Quest. 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. <http://westga.edu/
~bquest/2011/greenwashing11.pdf>.
2. Colmane, Frankie. “Why Has It Become Standard Practice in the U.S. to Embalm Our Dead?”
Alternet. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. <http://www.alternet.org/story/147435/
why_has_it_become_standard_practice_in_the_u.s._to_embalm_our_dead>.
3. Tweit, Susan J. “Dying to Be Green.” Audubon Living. Audubon Mag., 2010. Web. 15 Oct.
2013. <http://archive.audubonmagazine.org/audubonliving/audubonliving1009.html>.
4. Aries, Philippe. The Hour of Our Death. (2006). Vintage Books, 1982. Print.
5. Tain, Jessica. Economics of Death. (2013).
6. McQuillin, Pete. “Penn Forest Natural Burial Park in Pittsburgh.” Online video clip. YouTube.
YouTube. 19 Dec. 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=5xpLLDd6LPE>.
7. Motley, Carol. “Bury Me Naturally IFC Commercial Kings -Rhett and Link - Commercial.”
Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 4 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. <http://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahACmO8Vp1U>.
8. “Who We Are.” Penn Forest Natural Burial Park Cemetery. n.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
<http://pennforestcemetery.com/who-we-are/>.
9. “Finding a Provider” Green Burial Council. n.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. <http://
www.greenburialcouncil.org/finding-a-provider/>.
10. Harker, Alexandra. “Landscapes of the Dead: An Argument for Conservation Burial.” U.C.
Berkeley College of Environmental Design. The Urban Fringe, 19 Sep. 2012. Web. 15
Oct. 2013. <http://ced.berkeley.edu/bpj/2012/09/
landscapes-of-the-dead-an-argument-for-conservation-burial/>.
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