Wrapping dead people up like a tuna? - Curt Yeomans

If you've ever wondered how I find some of the more obscure topics for my columns, I recommend you search the CNN web site.

I was scanning through it when I came across a story about biodegradable coffins. When you see the words "biodegradable coffin" in a headline, it tends to catch your eye. The story was about environmentally friendly burials, where no embalming is involved, and no one is buried in a vault.

As I went to the page where the story was located, I found myself staring at a picture of a woman touching the coffin she's going to be buried in some day.

It's made out of recycled newspapers.


I have two issues with this. The first is that this woman appears to be in her 50's or 60's. She probably isn't going to die for a long time, since the article makes no mention of her having any life-threatening diseases. Isn't she running the risk of the coffin starting to decompose before she leaves this world?

My second issue is that the coffin is made from recycled newspapers.

Seriously? Recycled newspapers? Yeah, there are natural-fiber shrouds woven into the coffin's frame as well, but it's still made from recycled newspapers. Yeah, you can also get coffins made out of bamboo, or traditional wood coffins that decompose, but this woman didn't get those kinds of coffins. She got the one that is made out of recycled newspapers.

I'm all for burials being environmentally friendly, as well as newspapers having a use after all of the stories have been read, but isn't this like carrying home a dead tuna wrapped in a newspaper?

Pardon me for being a bit confused here, but isn't this taking the green movement a bit too far? It's great that people want to help the environment after they die, but isn't there a better way? Can't it be done without giving off the feeling that someone is going to be cooked on a skillet after the funeral?

You're dead. Your body is decompose, anyway. Shouldn't we just skip the coffin part and throw you in the ground? It's basically the same thing. At some point, the coffin will be completely gone, and your bones will be all that's left.

Even if you overlook the dead fish reference, there's the reference to the other use for a used newspapers: a paper mache coffin. If you remember making paper mache animals, or instruments, or paper mache anything else when you were younger. You should get what I'm saying here.

Imagine coming home at the end of the day, and asking your fifth-grade child what they did in school. They respond with, "we made paper mache coffins in art class!"

However, it's not just recycled newspapers that are used in these environmentally friendly burials. According to the CNN report, a person only has to pay $100 to be buried in a cardboard box.

Yes, a cardboard box. Like the kind you use when you're moving to a new home.

Blink. Blink.

My question about using the cardboard box as a coffin is, what happens when ground water comes in contact with the box? Cardboard basically turns into mush when it gets wet. It starts coming apart. It collapses in on itself. It's essentially no longer useful as a container. Plus, you only spent $100 to buy something to bury your loved one in. How cheap is that?

Personally, I hope my loved ones don't decide to bury me in either recycled newspapers, or a cardboard box, when I die. They might as well put my lifeless body in a small boat, set the boat on fire and send me off to sea in a Viking funeral.

On the other hand, there is a bit of humor, and tribute, involved when you bury a dead journalist in a coffin made out of used newspapers.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247 or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.