BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. -- We all know what it means to live green, but what about dying green?
Less costly goodbyes known as green burials are growing in popularity in Colorado and a new Lafayette business is helping people die as naturally as possible, with minimal impact to the earth.
"It's a whole new approach to end of life care," explained Prescott Knock, the executive director of the Natural Funeral.
Those who chose to live green also want to die green, which is how the green burial idea was born.
"Many of the people that are socially conscious, environmentally conscious really appreciate that alternative," said Knock.
Knock's new venture in the heart of downtown Lafayette will be one of the first in the state to help people die green. The Natural Funeral plans to open this summer at 102 West Chester Street after renovations are completed on the existing buildings.
What is a green burial?
The burials look more like something straight out of the wild west than your traditional cemetery.
"The grass is going to remain tall, we're going to pull weeds mechanically by hand," said Roselawn Cemetery Supervisor Kevin Williams. "We leave the ground more mounded."
A green burial or natural funeral means your body is placed directly into the ground in a pine casket or shroud.
"When a pine casket goes into the ground it's just going to biodegrade," explained Luc Nadeau, the owner of Nature's Casket, who makes pine caskets out of his backyard workshop in Longmont.
There is no fancy headstone, concrete vault, or costly casket. Instead, they use flat granite markers.
"We leave the ground more mounded and heaped with dirt and as the dirt settles, naturally, we add more dirt and once it becomes level will reseed it with native grass," explained Williams. "Kind of like a prairie feel to it."
There is no embalming used during a green funeral.
"Embalming is quite an evasive process, very toxic to the earth," said Knock.
Embalming fluid is a mixture of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can leach into the air and soil. To prevent that, a green burial preserves the body using ice and cooling tables, and then the body is treated with essential oils.
"The washing and love, the taking leave of the physical remains...-- it's relaxing, and certainly in the atmosphere around death there are emotions...-- it's to bring those down a little bit to a more peaceful place," said Karen van Vuurren, the Natural Funeral care program coordinator.
Under Colorado law, a body does not have to embalmed to be buried in the ground. A non-embalmed body either has be taken care of within 24 hours or properly refrigerated.
All the products used at the Natural Funeral are also locally sourced and naturally made.