by Bill Batson
“Dying to Bloom is the first of its kind – Natural Burial Boutique!” According to owner and green burial advocate Kerry Potter. The retail store at 48 Burd Street in Nyack specializes in natural burial products for people and pets. Items include biodegradable caskets, urns, cremation jewelry, tear bottles and unique sympathy gifts.
This week’s Nyack Sketch Log interview with Potter explores issues that are both of public interest and deeply personal. The weight of the ecological and economic implications of funerals and burials are shattering the taboos that prevent candid conversations about death. For those ready to confront the inevitable, Dying to Bloom has options for those who want to be better custodians of the planet that we all inherit and must bequeath to future generations and for people looking for alternatives to the traditional funeral service industry.
What’s the definition of a green burial?
A green burial is returning to earth naturally, which means a body is buried in a biodegradable casket or shroud without embalming. It is going back to they way we used to bury our deceased and it is the most environmentally considerate way to go. This is in contrast to being embalmed with formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), sealed in a steel or varnished wood casket, placed in a leak-proof concrete vault.
Are green burials an option for low-income families?
Absolutely! The average funeral costs approximately $10,000. By foregoing the embalming process, which usually means forgoing a viewing of the deceased (a funeral home rule) that cuts on the expense. In addition, many green cemetery plots are more affordable. Greensprings in Newfield NY is an amazing majestic natural cemetery with plots costing $1,000. Rosendale Cemetery in Rosendale, NY is a hybrid that offers plots for $800. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and Maryrest in Mahwah also have natural sections. Dying to Bloom sells simple white cardboard caskets that can be painted or decorated by the family for $365. We also have shrouds, hand woven willow caskets, simple pine and artistically made Greenman Casket (which is poplar bark with a live edge cherry lid). You do not need to purchase the casket from the funeral home. Even though it is an emotional purchase, people should price shop! Prices can vary tremendously from funeral home to funeral home. Know your consumer rights – visit the National Funeral Consumers Alliance at funerals.org In lieu of a viewing you can create your own memorial service at home, at a park or at the cemetery. The amount of money you spend DOES NOT reflect the amount of love you have for your beloved family member.
The Ecology And Economics of Funerals and Burials by the Numbers:
Each year we bury:
- 8 olympic-sized swimming pools of embalming fluid
- Enough metal to build the golden gate bridge
- Enough concrete in burial vaults to pave a two-line highway from New York to Detroit
- The average funeral costs $10,000
- There are 109,000 cemeteries in the United States
- There are 93 registered green cemeteries
- 76 million Americans are projected to reach the current age of average life expectancy, 78 years, between 2024 and 2042.
- If they were all buried in standard burial plots, it would require roughly 130 square miles of pure grave space, not counting roads, trees or pathways. That’s an area about the size of Las Vegas.
What brought you to Nyack?
When I wrote my business plan I knew, if I was going to stay in Rockland County, the boutique had to be located in Nyack! Nyack has a reputation for being earth-friendly, open-minded and progressive. Nyack is also the center of Rockland’s art community, many of our products are handmade works of art themselves.
What were you doing before you became a green burial advocate?
I have been a green burial advocate for over 10 years. I incorporated my passion for it into my previous work at WRCR radio by hosting a monthly show called “Dying to Bloom”. Topics included cremation, donating your body to science, consumer rights and related issues. In addition to being a mother of 3, I have held various administrative & marketing positions that have helped prepare me for running a business.
How long have you had the shop and what can we find inside?
Dying to Bloom has been open for a little over a year! The boutique is in the historic St. George Building in Nyack. It is a small quaint shop charmed with a lovely antique funeral bier and late period morning dress. They reflect the concept of going back to simpler days when families cared for their own deceased in the home. The gentle sounds of water flowing from the wall fountain represents a connection with nature. Several caskets are on display including burial shrouds, Sweet Goodbye Pet Burial Kits, Urns and cremation jewelry.
Are people sometimes shocked to hear that you run a burial shop?
We live in a culture that denies death, we have distanced ourselves from it. With many dying in hospitals and nursing homes followed by a move to a funeral home we have become unfamiliar with what it looks like. It is a taboo topic and many reformers are working to change that. Some people seem very intrigued by my business. I try to encourage & reflect the benefits of acknowledging our own mortality – live in the present, take chances, keep things in perspective – be happy for life is temporary – you will die.
What’s the most popular product that you sell?
With cremations now outnumbering burials, our most popular product is Scatter Tubes. They are biodegradable urns that come in a variety of sizes and prints engineered to help scatter ashes. Basically like a large salt shaker. Our biodegradable water urns are also popular. They float for a while then sink and biodegrade in the water.
Have you always been interested in the funeral industry?
From early childhood, I have had a fascination with defining life and the supernatural. I wish I was capable of understanding quantum physics and the string theory. Meanwhile, losing my parents to cancer in my 20s inspired me to become a Hospice Volunteer. Years after they died I learned about green burial and became passionate about wanting to bring a land conservation green cemetery closer to Rockland County.
Could you describe some of your products and how they are different to what you get in a traditional funeral home?
We offer a lovely selection of caskets from willow, bamboo, cardboard, pine in addition to a selection of burial shrouds. We encourage creative personal choices that reflect the deceased and compliment nature. I am not a funeral director. New York is one of ten states that require the use of a funeral director for issuing a death certificate and transporting the body. I think it is important for consumers to know FTC regulations state that all funeral homes must accept a coffin from a third-party seller without additional charge or penalty to you. Even though NY has some of the stricter regulations, home funerals (caring for your own deceased) is legal and possible for most situations. Visit the Home Funeral Alliance (homefuneralalliance.org) for more information.
Do you have eco pods available? If so, could you describe how they work?
Eco pods are caskets made from recycled paper. While I do have access to them, I think you are referring to the Bios Urn. Many folks are talking about turning into a tree when buried. There are quite a few concepts out on the internet and some of them are still in the concept phase. Currently, we do have the Bios Urn. That is an urn where you put cremated remains in the bottom half with a tree seed on the top half. We have Pine, beech, maple & red maple in stock. We also have a product called “Let your Love Grow”. Created by a funeral director that realized cremated remains do not break down and nourish the earth. This product neutralizes the cremains and helps them become nutrient rich so you can produce your own memorial planting.
Do most cemeteries permit green burials?
No, however, the interest in going out green is on the rise. We do carry several books including “The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide” by Ann Hoffner. Ann’s book is a state-by-state directory of where, how and why to choose green burial. There are different levels of green cemeteries. A land conservation cemetery is all preserved open space that also serves as a burial ground utilizing the income to continue preservation. A natural burial ground follows the principle of green burial and a Hybrid cemetery is an existing cemetery with headstones that opened a green burial section. Our caskets are suitable for all cemeteries as well as cremation.
Are you still planning on opening a green cemetery in Rockland County?
I did initiate “The Green Cemetery Fund” through the Rockland Community Foundation (rocklandgives.org) to help bring a land conservation green cemetery to our area. I also have a donation box in the store and I will continue to pursue this mission. Of course a land donation of 30 acres would be nice or an alliance with corporate owned land or parkland. Remember the land remains natural and continues to serve the wildlife as well as enjoyment for nature lovers. It just also happens to serve as a final resting place for those that choose to nourish the earth.
I heard you have studied how to do home funerals. Is that something you plan to do in the future?
I did take a course on home funerals by Olivia Bareham from Sacred Crossings. I am interested in continuing to learn from current practicing home funeral guides and would consider working with funeral homes willing to help families that want to experience the sacred act of a family led funeral. We have an array of home funeral guides and death doulas in our area and the field is growing. I am also pursing a certification as a Funeral Celebrant and will graduate in August!
Do you just have products for humans or do you make arrangements for animals as well?
We do carry products for pets as well. We recognize pets as family members and believe they deserve the same respect with final disposition. We are proud to be the first US retailer to offer the “Sweet Goodbye Pet Burial Kits”. These are lovely handmade wool biodegradable shrouds. The kit includes a burial guide with ceremony ideas and an up-cycled wood marker. They can be used for burial or cremation and are the most dignified option I have come across. That is why I also became a US wholesale representative. Additional services include pet shrouding and delivery to the crematory.
How do you open up conversations about death in a society where it is taboo?
As I mentioned earlier, there is a growing movement in the US to become “Deathpostive” (popularized by Caitlin Doughty & “The Order of the Good Death”). In addition, a growing number of Death Cafes are taking place all over the world (56 countries so far)! We host the Nyack Death Cafe, here at Dying to Bloom on the first Sunday of every month. Death Cafes were started in the UK by John Underwood per deathcafe.com “Our aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives.” At a Death Cafe people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death. As a host, I found them to be intriguing and no two have been alike! This is a free event with interesting conversation! You can find out more and learn about Nyack Death Cafe by visiting deathcafe.com.
For more information, visit Dyingtobloom.com
48 Burd Street, Suite 101
Nyack, NY 10960
Thursday-Sunday 12:00 noon -5:00pm
Also by appointment
An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Dying to Bloom“ © 2018 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.