Pushing Up Daisies workshop

A lot has happened since our last post in November when we launched the Eco Coffin Project at the Sustainable Living Festival and the program was FULLY BOOKED within the hour with a waiting list started. The aim of the project is to raise awareness of Natural Burial as a sustainable option for what can happen with our bodies when we die.

Eco Coffin Project week 1

During the last four months, we found the most incredible venue for our six week program at Riverdell Spiritual Centre, five eco-coffins arrived, guest speakers arranged, artists interviewed and a behind the scene tour of Adelaide Cemeteries Authority’s crematorium organised along with tours of the two natural burial grounds in South Australia. The project will have a big ending, thanks to Gawler Council, where the wider community can come and see what we have learned and created. Mark the following two events in your diary so you don’t miss out!! Bookings will open soon.

10:15am– 12:30pm Saturday 18 April,
Niina Marni Café, Gawler Civic Centre

1:00pm Saturday 18 April,
James Martin Room, Gawler Civic Centre

Gawler Councillors felt strongly that our community needs to know about natural burial so they unanimously voted to generously provide the James Martin room in the new Civic Centre for an art exhibition of the decorated eco-coffins and shrouds at the end of the project. A public Death Café will also be held in Niina Marni Café in the new Civic Centre right before the art exhibition launch. See the SAVE THE DATE 18 April details above for both events.

The first 10 lucky participants met for the first time on Sunday 1 March for week 1 of the six week program. We met in the Sanctuary at Riverdell, a beautiful venue nestled in a peaceful bush setting. The session started with each of us selecting a card that had an image on it that best represented our feelings to the questions from the Death Letter Project: What is death? and What happens when we die? We quickly learned so much about each other from seeing the cards that we selected and listening to the deeply intimate stories that each of us so generously shared. Such a wealth of experience and insights into death and dying in our group.

We also shared whether we were working on an eco coffin or shroud for the project and what our initial vision was. Some chose a shroud as they like the idea of the wrapping concept, as in wrapping a snuggly blanket around yourself, it has a comforting feel about it.

At the back of the room we had the two types of eco-coffins we are using on display. The Coffin-in-a-Box is made from eco-plywood and was on display in its flat-packed form and we had one assembled. The BioBoard is made from virgin Australian wood pulp and is an eco-cardboard option using corn starch which is fully biodegradable.

Eco Coffin Project: Week 1 - Coffin-in-a-box and BioBoard coffin on display
Coffin-in-a-box and BioBoard coffin on display

The creative decorating and making ideas for what people are thinking for their shrouds and eco-coffins were pretty exciting. The only stipulation is that the materials must be biodegradible. Initial ideas included felt, paint with colours of the rainbow, sea-shells, seaweed, paper mache, recycled clothes made from natural fibres, plants and a variety of fabrics including hemp, nettle, muslin, silk and there was the mention of including aromas from the bush as well and this was just week 1.

Abby from Our Family Celebrant then facilitated her popular Pushing Up Daisies workshop. This workshop empowers participants to confidently navigate their way through the rapidly changing landscape of the Australian funeral industry. Participants then think about their own values-based situations and creatively review their own end of life planning which goes much further than just a having a will.

Eco Coffin Project: Week 1 - Pushing Up Daisies Workshop
The room is setup for the Pushing Up Daisies Workshop

A sample of the new things participants learned included:

  • What Natural Burials are,
  • I never heard of an Emotional Will before and I’m looking further into this to see if this / or similar is something we can do for an auntie that has already passed,
  • The biggest thing that struck me was the fact that we can keep our ‘newly dead’  loved ones close to us for some time without the need to call a funeral director and can actually take care of our loved one ourselves. I was never offered that opportunity which is rather sad,
  • The options available for preparing for death,
  • That I did not feel alone, so many have experienced the grief of losing someone and I felt comfortable talking about my [situation]. 
  • Knowing there is Natural Burial Ground in our area (Gawler).

Actions that participants committed to take after the workshop included:

  • Talk with my family more about my thoughts and wishes, also advise them about the death folder and its significance,
  • Start the process of gathering information for death folder and research material to use for my coffin,
  • My action will be to encourage others to feel comfortable with this concept [keeping bodies at home after they die], no preaching, just comfortable chats,
  • Clean my stuff out!!!!! I do not want my family to deal with having to sort my things out when I am gone,
  • I will start the process of getting a will and all the other legal documents needed, 
  • Working on my end of life plan
  • Complete my advance care directive form [that we received in the workshop].

We were so engrossed in this first week’s session that none of us remembered to take photos. So we only have a few photos of the room setup before the workshop started.

Next week we are out and about with a tour of the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority Crematorium and the 2 Natural Burial Grounds – Wirra Wonga and Pilyu Yarta. You can be assured we will take more photos of our courageous pioneering group members to share on our blog!

The Eco Coffin Project is only possible thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and partners:

Eco Coffin Project thanks its sponsors
Thank you to our sponsors!