This is our world. We only have one opportunity to live in it, and to leave it in a better state than how we found it.
- We observe poverty daily.
- Hunger is an unfortunate result of poverty.
- Obesity is often an inadvertent byproduct of poverty, and hunger.
- A myriad of undesirable socio-economic consequences stem from the macro challenges above.
Poverty, hunger and obesity are problems that can be solved. But what happens when we face death? According to the U.S. Census Bureau 800,000 people are widowed each year in the United States. “Nearly700,000 women lose their husbands each year and will be widows for an average of 14 years”-U.S. Bureau of the Census (1999). Death of a spouse is ranked as the #1 Stressor: Holmes and Rahe stress scale. 60% of those who lose a spouse or significant other will experience a serious illness in the 12 months following that loss. Those widowed have reported illnesses like cancer, pancreas’ shutting down, shingles ( Widows Hope Organization).
The American funeral industry today has influenced how families bury their loved ones. Currently, the funeral-industry common burial standards harm the environment through the use of embalming, hardwood caskets, concrete vaults. Preserving open space, under-scoring ecological sensitivity of burial practices and providing social acceptance of death as a natural process will support land restoration for future generations.
According to the Natural Burial Organization, each year in the U.S., 22,500 traditional cemeteries put roughly the following into our soil:
- 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid
- 30-plus million board feet of hardwoods (much tropical, caskets)
- 90,272 tons of steel (caskets)
- 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete (vaults)
- 14,000 tons of steel (vaults)
- 2,700 tons of copper and bronze (caskets)
- On average, a cemetery buries 1,000 gallons of embalming fluid, 97.5 tons of steel, 2,028 tons of concrete, and 56,250 board feet of high quality tropical hardwood in just one acre of land.
In 2011, Florida Public Health reported that Florida resident deaths increased to 172,856. In 2011, cremations occurred more often than burials. In 2014, the total death rate increased to 185,038. The US Census 2013 reported that 14.5% of Americans live below the poverty line, 48% of Americans fell into the bracket of low-income or poverty. At the end of last year (2013) CNN reported that 76% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck. With considerable families struggling to make ends we are facing a crisis in the funeral industry, "funeral poverty”. More and more families are unable to meet funeral and burial costs. A traditional funeral costs $7,045 (NFDA 2012),not taking into account cemetery costs! How can a low-income family cover funeral costs in today’s world? Most commonly, families are dealing with funeral poverty by opting for direct cremation.
Memory Trees focuses on macro solutions to help move the social needle on challenges like poverty, hunger, obesity and environmental sustainability. Tackling poverty relating to funeral expenses, allows Memory Trees to address struggling families with high funeral costs and increase awareness regarding open space and conservation forests cemeteries.
At a macro level, Memory Trees may be small, but we are very effective and efficient at what we do, causing far greater positive social disruption than… say… a single mosquito at night in your quiet, dark room!
Memory Trees and Funeral Tribute Celebrant have been discussing a proposed project for the benefit of South Florida residents for about one year. As discussions progressed, Memory Trees started facilitating introductions with other agencies for collaboration, including the County’s Department of Parks & Recreation, Economic Sustainability, and South Florida Land Trust.
During this period, Memory Trees has been successfully executing other community projects, more specifically, Memory Trees had already - during 2015 - funded, managed and/or created more than twenty community gardens and small urban farming projects. Our project sites included schools, community centers, a Boys & Girls Club, an American Legion Post, and more.
Our future project, Community Conservation Cemetery, will be located in South Florida and will be under the supervision of a funeral director, volunteer coordinator and programs manage. Our Community Conservation Cemetery will be utilized and accommodate the bereaved, walking trails, educational and teaching areas, a commercial kitchen, and more!