By Mark Peterson

The world of waste reduction and the embracing a full Toward Zero Waste ethos has taken me to many different and interesting businesses and I am continually learning new things. Recently, we conducted a support site follow up for one of our long standing Toward Zero Waste businesses, Moles Farewell Tributes. Moles is a local funeral home that specializes in creating beautiful memorial events that honor the story of a lifetime in unique and memorable ways. They are often asked “What is a Farewell Tribute?” The answer is that a Farewell Tribute is an option for families who do not want a traditional funeral but want to do something to mark the passing of a loved one.

Moles has been conscientiously working toward operating in as sustainable a fashion as possible and has been a longtime member of Sustainable Connections taking part in many of our sustainable practice campaigns including Toward Zero Waste, Energy Efficiency and Renewables and Think Local First. Obviously, implementing sustainability at a funeral home has a unique set of constraints each with their own intricacies. I find myself inspired by their commitment to reduce their impact and also the way in which they adhere to their practices in a reverent and respectful manner.

During our most recent visit my co-worker and I learned so much about the funeral industry from Brian Flowers, Moles’ Managing Funeral Director and Green Burial Coordinator. In our culture we often shy away from conversations around death and generally don’t talk about it at all, let alone the impacts related to how we end up at our final resting place. In a traditional burial many resources are utilized including reinforced concrete, embalming fluids, steel and hardwoods for caskets and cremation requires fossil fuels. Brian said that more and more people are opting for their green burial process.

Moles’ Meadow Natural Burial Ground is an offering to those who seek a different way to honor their loved ones and everything used in this burial process is biodegradable and non-toxic resulting in significantly reduced waste. Green burial is part of an ecological restoration and the process and body become a vehicle for restoring a natural ecosystem. The entire Meadow Natural Burial Ground has an integrated pest management plan and at least three native plants are planted at the grave with each internment. Over time the Meadow Natural Burial Ground will closely resemble the landscape that existed in this area for centuries and as maintained by Native Americans.

Many families who have opted for a green burial process have found it to be very comforting and a way to help them through their grief. Simple rituals such as closing the grave by hand or planting plants are important aspects of the services. These unique meaning making opportunities allow family members and loved ones to engage in the process of saying goodbye and cherishing memories. Another feature of a green burial site is that the family can choose to tend the grave site as they wish by taking care of the plants either trimming and manicuring or just letting it return to the wild, something that would not be allowed at a traditional burial plot. These occasions to engage in an activity of tending the grave site have become cherished rituals and a way for families to pay respects and share remembrances.

While is not easy in our culture to think of and discuss aspects of how we become ashes to ashes and dust to dust, it is comforting to know that there are caring individuals among us, who can help us through this process. It is commendable that locally owned Moles Farewell Tributes continues to be a leader in sustainability and providing different options to suit the needs and desires of all of our community during some of our most trying and difficult times.

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