The Eco Coffin Project was successfully launched at the Sustainable Living Festival on Sunday 27 October, 2019. A good crowd gathered in the Speaker’s Zone at 10:30am to hear the project facilitator, Abby Buckley, give a short presentation explaining the project and the environmental issues. Then the Town of Gawler Mayor, Karen Redman, shared some personal stories in her presentation and officially launched the project. It was encouraging to then have lots of interested people ask questions and register for the 6-week program. We were soon SOLD OUT and created a waiting list.
The project aims to increase our death literacy and raise awareness of Natural Burial. Did you know we have a Natural Burial Ground in Gawler? Standard responses are: “Do we? Where? I never knew that! What’s a natural burial? Can we really use our own coffin/shroud? Is it legal?
The Eco Coffin Project stall looked so creatively colourful with lots of craft materials that drew people in to have a look and ask what we were doing. We had a rectangular, home-made coffin on display that Abby’s husband, Shane, made from donated planks of raw wood.
People of all ages stopped to help decorate the coffin with bio-degradable craft materials. The glue was made by Abby from flour, water, sugar, vinegar and bicarb soda. Craft materials were donated by friends and the members of the Gawler Buy Nothing Group and included paper, fabric, dried and fresh flowers and leaves, feathers, old sheets of music, newspaper cuttings about climate change. Glue and paint were applied with brushes, cardboard, sponges and fingers. Lots of colour and texture made for some beautiful creative designs.
We met heaps of interesting people, had some great conversations and learned so much, gaining lots of inspiration for the project. I learned that the place the Festival was being held, Pioneer Park, was the site for Gawler’s first cemetery from 1847 to 1870 with 471 burials. I learned that a new Natural Burial ground may be opening up in Gawler in the not too distant future. I met the Anglican Minister who, in December 2016, officiated the first natural burial at Aldinga Arts Eco-Village. The conversations were rich and broad and continued all day.
On display was our assembled, flat-pack, sustainable-plywood coffin called “Coffin-In-A-Box”. It is lined with paper and calico and uses part of the cardboard packing as a headrest. Five lucky participants in the Eco Coffin Project 6-week program will receive one of these eco-coffins to assemble and decorate and then they can flat pack it up to conveniently store until needed. It’s theirs to keep. The other five participants will make and decorate a shroud. Lots of creative ideas emerged on materials to use for shrouds such as fabric made of cotton, linen or bamboo; hemp/jute bags, macramé, crochet, knitted, quilted or even paper-mache. All will be on display at our art exhibition on completion of the project.
It was so encouraging and enlivening to be positioned amongst the other ‘eco-makers’ at the Festival. Our neighbours were Gem and Philippa with the weaving looms, basketry, face-painting and Elisabeth with come-and-try mosaics from colourful plastic bottle tops.
The Eco Coffin Project is possible thanks to our generous sponsors from State and Local Government and local business: Gawler Environment Centre (GEC), Town of Gawler, Adelaide Cemeteries Authority, Adelaide & Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, Link Edge, Abby Buckley Our Family Celebrant.
Thanks to all the people who donated organic and biodegradable craft materials. Thanks to many of the other stallholders and the GEC team who popped in to have a look and offer kind words of encouragement.