Natural Pine Wood CasketA 225-year-old family-run woolen mill in West Yorkshire, England, makes uniforms for the British Royal Guard, felt linings for Steinway pianos, interior details for Rolls Royce and Bentley automobiles and now, woolen caskets. Great Britain is seeing a rise in demand for more ecologically sound funerals and burials, and woolen coffins fit right in with a green objective. Another humble material returning to the forefront of interest is the pine coffin. Both options offer unique benefits for someone looking for an alternative to heavy lacquered wood and steel caskets.

Old Technology

It takes the fleece of three sheep to produce enough wool for a single casket. It is woven and felted and fitted around a recycled cardboard infrastructure, and it is then lined in cotton. In keeping with the natural approach, no dyes are used. The coffins come in white and brown. The pallbearer handles are fashioned from jute. The caskets are remarkably strong, with a holding capacity of up to 840 pounds. Naturally, they are fully biodegradable. The idea of being buried in wool may be seeing a revival, but it is not new. In order to boost the textile industry in 1661, a law was passed requiring corpses to be buried in a wool shroud. Proponents of the wool casket have been known to say they like the idea of a loved one's body being wrapped in the warm fabric.

Artisanal Pine Coffins

The mention of a pine coffin may bring up visions of old western movies where the undertaker scrambles to pull a few boxes together for the unlucky losers of the high-noon shootout. Southern author William Faulkner had a character solemnly build his mother a wooden coffin in As I Lay Dying. In movies and literature, the pine casket has often been a symbol of rough living and poverty. There is, however, a movement afoot to change that perception. Small businesses are popping up that hand-produce pine coffins for people who want them. These caskets are not the slapped-together constructions from the movies. Features include:

  • Hand planed planks
  • Tongue and groove design
  • Custom sizing

They are generally left unvarnished, but friends and loved ones have been known to write goodbye messages or draw pictures on the plain wood as part of their funeral service. Actually helping to complete the construction of the pine box has become part of the ritual at many services. Family members may have the opportunity to hammer in the last pegs or nails themselves. For some, this can be an intimate act that presents a kind of closure.

Dust to Dust

The pine casket may be the humble vessel for a funeral ceremony and burial intended to help the deceased and the attendees physically connect with the earth. The biodegradable coffin and a shovel-dug grave may be two elements of a plan to return the body to an elemental state, one that benefits its surroundings and allows participants to engage with the passing as part of a greater cycle. Surveys have been conducted that show that one in five older Americans favor alternatives to the traditional funeral parlor experience. Baby boomers may be more environmentally conscious, making a simple and natural burial an appealing choice. They may also be interested in customizing their end in accordance with their vision. They may wish to be buried on private land, or choose a designated natural burial site.

Breaking New Ground

While funeral professionals may be required to work with any coffin a family decides upon, it may be unlikely that wool and pine coffins will completely usurp their fancier steel cousins in funeral parlors and churches across the country. They do, however, represent the variety of choice that exists for people who wish to consider their burial options.

Category: Get Ordained Funeral

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