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How "eco" is the Ecopod?

Marketplace Staff Mar 13, 2008


Doug Krizner: We talk a lot on this program about environmentally friendly products. Maybe thinking green is already in your consciousness.
What about when you’re gone, as in dead?

Seems a growing number of us are choosing the green burial. Steel caskets and concrete vaults are replaced with plywood coffins, or even cardboard boxes. It’s all about letting the worms do their thing. Now, a British company has decided to take the bio-degradable casket a step further. But as April Dembosky reports, that has some in the green burial movement concerned.

April Dembosky: Max Bruderli is a 65-year-old retired economist living in Houston. He’s not expecting to kick the bucket any time soon, but when he does, he’s planning to be buried in something called an Ecopod.

The “eco” part of the name comes from its composition — 100 percent recycled paper. And the “pod” part . . . well, it looks like a giant seed pod.

Max Bruderli: The thing I like about the Ecopod is it is aesthetically very pleasing. Even if it’s made of paper, it still has to look like you are giving the deceased their last respect.

But this kind of respect doesn’t come cheap. Ecopods cost more than $3,000 — the average price of a conventional casket. And that’s given some green burial advocates a case of sticker-shock.

Josh Slocum: One thing that concerns me is the possibility that the green burial movement will become boutique-ed.

Josh Slocum is executive director of the Funeral Consumers’ Alliance:

Slocum: Green burial is not about what you buy, it’s about what you don’t buy. It’s about simplicity and economy as much as it is about being environmentally friendly.

Some even question the green credentials of shipping a casket called an “Ecopod” 5,200 miles from the U.K.

Mark Harris wrote the book “Grave Matters:”

Mark Harris: Is a burial really green when you’ve got to transport these vehicles thousands and thousands of carbon-spewing miles?

But fans of biodegradable caskets hope growing demand will spur U.S. craftspeople to begin making them locally.

Cynthia Beal is Ecopod’s sole importer in the U.S:

Cynthia Beal: My hope is that after I’ve had these in circulation for a while, we’ll see artists from around the country deciding that they can make something like that and do it here.

But for now, the debate is mostly academic. Strict zoning laws and some reluctance in the funeral industry to embrace green burials have limited them to just a handful of cemeteries in the U.S.

I’m April Dembosky for Marketplace.

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