The best books if you literally want to go green when you die

Elizabeth Fournier Author Of The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial
By Elizabeth Fournier

Who am I?

Saving the planet one death at a time is truly what the world needs now: to reduce our carbon footprint and go out in eco-friendly style. As the one-woman funeral service in the rural town of Boring, Oregon, I support the philosophy of old-school burial practices that are kinder to both humans, the earth, and our wallets. I have humbly been baptized the Green Reaper for my passionate advocacy of green burial, and as an undertaker and the owner and undertaker of Cornerstone Funeral, the first green funeral home in the Portland area. I love to devour all literature possible on green burial and environmentally friendly death care.


I wrote...

The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial

By Elizabeth Fournier,

Book cover of The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial

What is my book about?

Funeral expenses in the United States average more than $10,000. And every year conventional funerals bury millions of tons of wood, concrete, and metals, as well as millions of gallons of carcinogenic embalming fluid. There is a better way, and Elizabeth Fournier, affectionately dubbed the “Green Reaper,” walks you through it, step-by-step. She provides comprehensive and compassionate guidance, covering everything from green burial planning and home funeral basics to legal guidelines and outside-the-box options, such as burials at sea. Fournier points the way to green burial practices that consider both the environmental well-being of the planet and the economic well-being of loved ones.

The books I picked & why

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Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial

By Mark Harris,

Book cover of Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial

Why this book?

This is the book where it all began. Mark Harris opened up eyes and hearts to the beauty of burying our loved ones naturally and on our own terms. I had never read such a clear reality of the embalming process and how Americans morphed from simple home burial to the industrial Googleplex of the funeral business. Want to be buried in your backyard or with a sheet off your bed? Read this book! The author is a former environmental columnist with the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and his work has been featured in many fabulous places.


Greening Death: Reclaiming Burial Practices and Restoring Our Tie to the Earth

By Suzanne Kelly,

Book cover of Greening Death: Reclaiming Burial Practices and Restoring Our Tie to the Earth

Why this book?

A great anthropological read about the past 150 years of death care in this country. She discusses the ingrained traditions held so closely by the public over decades of death. There are so many destructive practices we cling to when someone dies. Suzanne unpacks the sack of societal behaviors that have been none-too-friendly on our precious environment. Our customary American demise practices, which include the procedure of embalming, hardwood and metal caskets, and concrete burial vaults and grave liners, only strengthen this saga.


Our Last Best Act: Planning for the End of Our Lives to Protect the People and Places We Love

By Mallory McDuff,

Book cover of Our Last Best Act: Planning for the End of Our Lives to Protect the People and Places We Love

Why this book?

A meaningful and absolutely pleasurable read that supports a treasured purpose in our complex world and justly speaks to one of the genuine accountabilities of being human: caring for and interring our dead. How do we plan for our final needs after passing and retain climate and community? Mallory faced these problems after her parents died in nearly identical biking mishaps a few years apart. She has inspired me greatly with how she writes about one of my favorite subjects. And how extra enjoyable to have my work attributed a few times throughout her book.


Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons: Field Notes from The Death Dialogues Project

By Becky Aud-Jennison, Felicia Olin (illustrator),

Book cover of Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons: Field Notes from The Death Dialogues Project

Why this book?

I first learned of the Death Dialogue Projects through Instagram. The author has a standing open call for Tiny Death Stories of 100 words or less, and a few of mine were showcased along with many lovely true tales of personal loss and grief. What a welcome resource as well as her emotionally raw nature of her podcast translates well into her pages. The book is an obvious project of passion embracing death literacy. I love how healing and understanding are weaved through the shared stories.


Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing

By Robert Wolff,

Book cover of Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing

Why this book?

Green burial is not a new idea; it has been practiced for thousands of years and is still commonly practiced around the world. Green burial is also starting to be used as an avenue of enabling the restoration and preservation of habitat. The tradition of green (or natural) burials dates back to ancient times. For most of human history, in cultures where bodies were buried, the body was placed in a grave, perhaps wrapped in a shroud or in a simple box, directly into the ground. Robert’s chapters provide sustenance for the world full of people who exist in complete harmony with the natural world and with each other.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in environmentalism, funerals, and sustainability?

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