Laughter amid the tears: Asheville’s Bury Me Naturally sells its services with humor

“At Bury Me Naturally, we bury customers in 100 percent biodegradable caskets.” So goes the opening line in the West Asheville company’s newest video, which takes a light-hearted look at the inevitable — and what low-cost burial options the company has to offer.

“Green burial makes the earth smile.”

“And it’s real cheap, too.”

Video by chrispolk76

“I am meant to become one with the earth.”

“I don’t care. I’ll be dead.”

On the ground floor of Bury Me Naturally’s Haywood Road shop, customers can admire floral arrangements, planters and jars of dried herbs. But the balcony above displays a series of colorfully decorated cardboard caskets that are the company’s signature stock-in-trade.

“Death was something I was attracted to,” owner Carol Motley explains in a 2010 Xpress article. The former English teacher says her forays into such Southern gothic authors as Flannery O’Connor were always punctuated by the recurring theme of the inevitable end of life.

Motley began looking into the history and practice of undertaking. She eventually read Mark Harris’ 2007 book Grave Matters, which analyzes modern American burial methods and champions simpler, more environmentally sensitive alternatives. “I thought, ‘My God: That makes a lot more sense,’” she remembers.

In 2008, Motley launched a home business arranging natural burials, a niche that seemed a good fit with many Asheville residents’ alternative and green attitudes.

Although cardboard caskets were already available, Motley found none with the traditional tapered shape. A packaging company in Arden agreed to make them, and the models on display at the shop were decorated by Asheville-area artists using Earthpaint, another local product. Continuing the theme, local designer Brooke Priddy (who owns Ship to Shore) creates burial shrouds using Asheville-made organic cotton Spiritex fabrics.

For those seeking a somewhat more durable product, the Candler-based Green Casket Co. offers hand-hewn pine boxes. A hand-dug grave and a biodegradable coffin add up to a significantly smaller environmental footprint, which seems to appeal to folks who want to return to the earth rather than being embalmed and encased in bronze to delay the inevitable.

“Cool people die,” notes Motley. “Cool people die all the time, and they’re not going to want a big metal casket decorated with a bunch of crap.”

Bury Me Naturally’s website also has a list of other local natural burial services.

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About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism. Follow me @fobes

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One thought on “Laughter amid the tears: Asheville’s Bury Me Naturally sells its services with humor

  1. zen

    This is how I would die into the love I have for you:
    As pieces of cloud dissolve in Sunlight.

    ~Rumi

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