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Writing Sample #1 (Blog Article for class)

The Art of Communicating Green Burial by Kyla Scherr

class) The Art of Communicating Green Burial by Kyla Scherr Source: www.funeralfuturist.com Source: www.nrdc.org Source:

Source: www.funeralfuturist.com

Green Burial by Kyla Scherr Source: www.funeralfuturist.com Source: www.nrdc.org Source: www.post-gazette.com Green

Source: www.nrdc.org

Scherr Source: www.funeralfuturist.com Source: www.nrdc.org Source: www.post-gazette.com Green Burial Pittsburgh (GBP)

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.

is a fine balance between raising awareness and controversy. If the main goal of green burial

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

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/>.