A Greener Way to Go: Eva Moseley ’53 and Green Burial


Eva Moseley ’53 spoke to an audience of alumnae at Reunion 2013.

Did you know that formaldehyde, the main chemical used in embalming, is a carcinogen? Or that embalming usually isn’t required by law? And those outrageously priced coffins that are sold to grieving family? Not necessary at all.

Death isn’t anybody’s favorite topic of conversation, but Eva Steiner Moseley ‘53 isn’t afraid to talk about it. On the contrary, she has been working to get the word out about a growing trend in eco-friendly funerals: the green burial.

As part of the “Back to Class” segment of reunion, Moseley gave a talk about green burials and their economic, environmental, and even emotional benefits. In the talk, Moseley referred to Jessica Mitford’s 1963 book The American Way of Death, an exposé of the funeral industry that prompted many to rethink the way our culture treats death. “For me,” Moseley says, “the main thing is becoming part of the Earth, an idea as satisfying, intellectually and emotionally, as thoughts of death can be.”

When Moseley’s mother died in 1971, she experienced firsthand the business of the funeral industry in America. There were no simple or natural options, and when Moseley asked for the plainest wooden casket shown to her, she was told that it was only available to orthodox Jews. “That plain wooden box started me thinking about what I want,” said Moseley.

In a green cemetery, simplicity is the top priority. Everything is biodegradable. No elaborate headstones, no concrete vaults, no toxic chemicals. Even the flowers are native to the land. As Moseley puts it, “A field of graves is a field.”

Cremation is not on the green burial agenda. Though often thought of as a better alternative to burial, cremation adds to global warming and pollutes the air with mercury, says Moseley. Her main argument is that cremation is wasteful. “Put simply, plants feed animals, and animals, with their wastes and their bodies, feed plants,” she says.

—By Lauren Quirici, FP ’14

» Read the full talk

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5 responses to “A Greener Way to Go: Eva Moseley ’53 and Green Burial”

  1. david says:

    Thank you so much Eve Moseley

  2. Linda Shapiro Ader says:

    Of course Jews are commanded to bury their dead in plain wood caskets without embalming. And have been doing this for hundreds if not thousands of years. In Israel Jews are wrapped in shrouds and slipped into their graves. The burial is to take place within 24 hours. Sadly this practice has been overlooked by many Jews in favor of fancy caskets, and more elaborate funeral arrangements.

  3. Beautifully simple and straightforward article; thank you!
    Many folks who are interested in green burial are also interested to explore family and community centred, home based post death care alternatives. I call myself a death midwife and offer education, home funeral guidance and bereavement support as well as sitting on the board of directors for the National Home Funeral Alliance as well as a burgeoning Canadian Organization for Death Midwifery. Please feel free to reach out with any questions etc or consider joining the FB group I host called Death Midwifery in Canada where there are 10 -20 posts per day related to alternative end of life, death, dying and grief. https://www.facebook.com/groups/306940662720202/

  4. Shroudwoman says:

    Thank you so much Eve Moseley for getting the word out! I started working in California’s first green cemetery FERNWOOD in 2004 and the biggest request we had was for shroud burial . The problem was all shrouds sold were of religious nature and a long piece of cloth was very difficult to wrap and to carry to the grave (often uneven natural woodlands) and especially to lower. So I designed the first secular shroud product made specifically for green burial and it was used on the TV show “Six Feet Under” in 2005! We now have a wonderful network of family owned funeral homes who are dedicated to green burial all over the country positioned near all 80 of the green cemeteries we know of in over 35 states! We help get the people who want this option with our products locally to the green cemeteries near them and great funeral professionals and home funeral helpers to get them just what they want. The customer call the shots again with the option. Please visit us at: http://www.kinkaraco.com
    Thank you

  5. Louis DelSoldo says:

    Very insightful! Much to ponder! This is a saner and more natural way of death.