The Natural End(TM) Provider Network makes it easier for families seeking natural funeral options to find cemetery and funeral service providers who have pledged to offer them. Natural End basic listings on the site and on the Map are free to providers who sign the pledge.
Each Natural End(TM) provider agrees to abide by the Natural End Pledge's core principles in the categories that apply.
Funeral Service Providers agree to, at minimum:
- accommodate caskets purchased elsewhere by the family (as per FTC Federal law)
- include natural funeral options in the General Price List
- promote biodegradable coffins and urns for purchase (display & make available)
- assist the family in locating an OBC-free or full earth-contact burial site
- comply with mortuary service provider requirements below if offering embalming
Mortuary service providers (may include Funeral Directors who embalm) agree to, at minimum:
- offer natural funeral services, including public viewings, without embalming (unless prohibited by state-law - if prohibited BY LAW in your state, initial here _____ State statute #: _____________________)
- provide low and/or non-toxic embalming options if requested
Cemeteries agree to, at minimum:
- offer vault/OBC-free burials and shroud burials with no coffin/casket required in either a dedicated section or throughout the cemetery. (the latter is strongly encouraged!)
- implement resource-use reduction & habitat enhancement in the cemetery
Family Directed Funeral Assistants and Guides, at minimum:
- support the family in identifying and utilizing natural options as described for funeral service providers above, including products and services
- ensure that the family member -- who has legal responsibility, and is acting as, or in-lieu-of, a funeral director -- stays in charge of the process at all times
- be informed of all applicable funeral-related laws and regulations and fulfill all legal requirements
Natural End basic listings on this website are FREE to any providers
who meet the above criteria in their respective categories.
NOT REQUIRED BUT SUGGESTED: In addition, many Natural End™ network affiliates may also::
- assist with interstate transport of unembalmed bodies to other facilities when needed
- work to operate an increasingly energy-efficient business facility
- practice toxic-use reduction in the facility (chemicals, embalming fluids, etc.)
- practice resource-use reduction and habitat enhancement on the grounds they manage
- work with other funeral service providers to support increased natural end-of-life options nationwide
- work with families to facilitate in-home services and wakes
The provider's agreement (the Natural End Pledge) is transparent to everyone, and there are no "hidden" standards. If a provider does more than the basics in the pledge, the provider can add an extended description to their listing and describe the "extras" they provide.
When you work with a Natural End Network provider you can be confident that you're working with a service or a business that's made a commitment to both you and the future, in writing, that you can read for yourself.
ALL NATURAL END SIGNERS agree to comply with FTC Green Guides recommendations for using the word "green" and other protected terms in advertising materials and other communications. CLICK HERE FOR THE GOOGLE SEARCH FOR FTC-GREEN GUIDES - THEIR LINKS KEEP CHANGING!
SUPPORTING NATURAL END
Funeral service providers and cemeteries who want to support the Natural End Network can purchase extended information pages. Consumers who want to do so can patronize Natural End network Pledge Signers. For more information on becoming a Natural End Network provider, contact us.
LOOK FOR THIS LOGO ON PARTICIPATING NATURAL END PROVIDERS' WEBPAGES:
This network is sponsored by supporters who wish to see natural funeral options readily available wherever people need them.
Important Pledge Updates:
July 19, 2013 - OOPS! A cemetery helped us discover a typo with language remaining from a previous version instead of our current version (these things get complicated!). The Cemetery Operator's section should read:
Cemeteries agree to, at minimum:
- offer vault/OBC-free burials and shroud burials with no coffin/casket required in either a dedicated section or throughout the cemetery. The latter is strongly encouraged.
- implement resource-use reduction & habitat enhancement in the cemetery
- We now want cemeteries to agree to bury shrouded bodies without a coffin or casket. We think that's important enough to push. If they can offer vault-free, they can offer coffin-free, too.
- We went through a phase of wanting existing cemeteries to be vault-free throughout, but we realized that not all cemeteries CAN do that, and cemeteries that can will have that as a marketing advantage, but it doesn't need to be a requirement to sign the Pledge. The important thing is that there's a vault-free direct-earth burial option available.
- We took the word "begin" off the resource-use reduction sentence. It's time to implement!
Another helpful comment today led to better wording about Home Funeral Guides:
- We clarified that the family member who's acting as the funeral director remains in charge of the process; the Home Funeral Guide assists but is not doing the work of a funeral director.
- We made it more clear that the HFG doesn't have to "educated" - there's no accredited 'education' for HFG's and probably won't/shouldn't be - but we think it's important that they pledge to be aware of the rules and are licensed whenever required.
July 20, 2013 - Improvements keep coming! More discussion on the issue, leading to even BETTER language for the HFG portion of the Pledge.
(Many thanks to British Columbia's Pashta Marymoon of Journeying Beyond for this extremely helpful exchange!)
1) In the Home Funeral Guide segment, we refined the statement: "ensure that the family member acting as the funeral director stays in charge of the process at all times"
"ensure that the family member -- who has legal responsibility, and is acting in-lui-of a funeral director -- stays in charge of the process at all times"
RATIONALE: This helps in instances where the governing authority names the family-member-in-charge a "funeral director" (as it does in some US States) and where the person simply has legal authorization to control the body til final disposition.
2) We refined the statement: "be informed of all applicable funeral-related laws and regulations and be licensed as required"
"be informed of all applicable funeral-related laws and regulations, and fulfill all legal requirements in the governing jurisdiction"
RATIONALE: This helps clarify that the Pledge does not require licensing, since not all States - and few countries - require licensed funeral directors. Statutory laws appropriately exist governing the handling of a dead body, and rightfully so. Since laws vary so widely from jurisdiction (some States have prohibited the transport of a casketed body in an open pick-up truck or setting up a funeral home in a commercial strip mall, for purposes of "unseemliness", for example), we'll opt for "governing jurisdiction" as our catch-all wording for activities that definitely should not require a license, like assisting a family OR A FUNERAL DIRECTOR with an at-home funeral - and see how that holds up. The Pledgee states they will fulfill legal requirements that apply to them, and they agree to be responsible for knowing what they should know. We trust that consumers will take action if they don't. Remember, because of its local, intimate and personal nature, word-of-mouth remains the most powerful advertising - and deterrent to bad behavior - a funeral service provider has.
Cynthia's Further Notes:
Below are some of my own thoughts relating to the above that I hope can be useful - this seems a convenient place to put them...
NOTE RE THE FUNERAL PROCESS: I think it's important to note that THE FUNERAL PROCESS ENDS AT THE MOMENT OF FINAL DISPOSITION, when the body is transferred from the person-in-charge (the one whose name is on the transport permit) to the licensed final disposition facility, whether its the cemetery, the crematory, or some other entity.
Many people, including professionals, are confused on this point. The burial/cremation process is technically NOT a funeral. The funeral and the final disposition are legally and functionally separated. A funeral is an event with the body present, before the disposition. The burial or cremation is the final disposition. The legalities that govern the funeral - the bits about the body itself - "travel" with the body, its legal custodian and the permit to transport it. After that transfer, what we usually call "the funeral", aside from fulfillment of contracts, required filings, and any other business or housekeeping obligations remaining post-disposition, is concluded.
NOTE RE LICENSING OF FUNERAL/EOL (END OF LIFE) SERVICE PROVIDERS: Licensing is sometimes seen as a way to ensure the fulfillment of legal requirements. However, in the case of most license-based rules, when actual laws are broken - for example, in the case of fraud, breach of contract, mis-use of funds, etc. - those violations are a function of other pre-existing statutes, laws and rules created in official governmental departments, not professional funeral licensing boards (who are usually appointees of an administration that serve for terms). The licensing board contextualizes the statute so that it makes sense to the occupation, but the legal roots of the proscription are usually elsewhere.
The licensee can experience penalties and/or loss of the license and this is seen by some as a deterrent to criminal activity - and often the justification for the licensing itself - but the licensing process doesn't convey the training or skills needed to offer the products and services a well-run funeral ceremony requires, nor should it. (Embalming, with its use of toxic chemicals and potential disease-exposure when handling and properly disposing of multiple gallons of blood and internal organs is an exception, and actually forms the basis of most original funeral licensing rationale, out of which many of the additional rules grew over time.) At the bottom of this article are examples of overreach a Federal District Court Judge found unconstitutional: http://www.ydr.com/business/ci_20631013/ruling-throw-out-decades-old-funeral-regulations
Licensing is not necessarily the best solution to the complaints raised by Jessica Mitford and thousands of others about funeral service providers, as bad behavior by licensees shows:
- Midwest licensees plead guilty in 600 million dollar Ponzi scheme for pre-arranged funerals Scheme: http://www.funerals.org/newsandblogsmenu/blogdailydirge/201-npspreneed
- 40 million dollar crematory scandal in Georgia (Georgia licenses Crematories) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tri-State_Crematory
Remember, licensing boards have been around for multiple decades, claiming to prevent behaviors like the ones above. Some funeral industry pundits suggest these things happen not because the licensing board doesn't have enough money to inspect, but rather because it spends its time and money regulating things that it has no business covering, and doesn't pay attention to the things it's actually supposed to do (like audit cemetery and funeral home pre-need and perpetual care accounts, for example...try to find the public info on YOUR State's most recent audit and tell me how it stacks up against public perception!)
Indeed, some groups like the Institute for Justice claim that licensing boards restrict free trade and commerce and are unconstitutional when they exceed their bounds of protecting public health and safety. Their position on the Louisiana monks' casket case is particularly interesting - http://www.ij.org/louisiana-caskets-background-2 and economist David Harrington has made a strong case for changing how the industry regulates: http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2003/4/v26n1-3.pdf and http://davideharrington.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Harrington-Expert-Report-in-PA-Case.pdf
"Based on my extensive research into funeral markets over the last 15 years, I have concluded that funeral laws and regulations like those of Pennsylvania (described above) provide no discernible benefits to consumers. "
States like Colorado removed the licensing requirement almost completely, and it's said that funeral costs have gone down there, and funeral related law-breaking has not gone up. The UK does not license its funeral directors, although multiple active professional organizations exist and market the training and education their members receive as the way consumers can purchase "sensitive services with confidence."
NOTE RE: PERMIT TO POSSESS, TRANSPORT AND DISPOSE -- Requiring legal designation of the person in charge of the body - i.e., the transport permit - makes sense to me. Someone needs to have a permit at all times to be carting around, burying or burning a dead body, and I don't think that the permit requirement itself is evidence of the profession's 'take-over' of the activity, although how the permit is acquired and who can easily get it most certainly is.
The issuance of the permit triggers a legal stopwatch in an authority's records. The permit's multiple parts, dispatched to the various parties expected to have contact with the body along the way - the medical authority, the family member, the person authorized to control the disposition, the disposing facility itself - must be returned, signed, and filed within a limited timeframe. Failure to do that has penalties attached.
It's also a civilized step to have a process that compels a group of people to expedite the final disposition and see the process through to its end, making them accountable if anyone drops their ball. Now, what that permit SHOULD require, why, and in what timeframe is a matter for discussion, as customs vary wildly around the world and can get very interesting ... but it's not a topic for here and now! I'll have to explore in my class sometime a case study where we're in a society that has no controls on dead bodies and see where we go....
NOTE RE: CEMETERY AND FUNERAL LICENSING BOARDS
Licensing boards are coming under increasing fire these days, both for overreach (Pennsylvania ruling is a good example: and internal corruption and self-dealing on the part of Board members benefiting themselves and their personal businesses at the expense of the competition.
While rules ARE needed and a professional oversight board for rules relating to public health and safety, or rules that helpfully contextualize laws so their applicability to EOL service providers is clear, the job of managing and improving a profession is generally not considered the job of government, at least, not according to most Charters that most governments are based upon. However, if you read most funeral and cemetery license Board by-laws, and especially the meetings of their Board minutes - public record and now available online in most states - "professional conduct" is often the justification for much of the language and conversation there.
Professional standards - those that define desired conduct that's not criminal; i.e., "respectful", "dignified", "egalitarian", "affordable" - is historically the job of a professional organization functioning within the context of a free market. In fact, as long as licensing boards that proscribe and rule-make against non-criminal behavior exist, they actually REMOVE THE POWER that professional trade organizations have to distinguish themselves as aligned groups of individuals, usurping the best functions of professional trade associations for themselves.
State licensing boards effectively create a single professional jurisdictional monopoly rather than making room for multiple trade associations -representing multiple points of view - to exist. In short, licensing lowers the bar for everyone, raises prices, results in discriminatory behavior too complex to regulate, and keeps decision making power in the hands of an unelected few. I maintain that it's one of the key reasons the industry has dug itself into such a hole, and hope that it climbs out soon!
NOTE RE: PROFESSIONAL DESIGNATION: Many disparage the professionalization of funeral activities. While I deplore a lot that has gone wrong over the years in the process itself because of how much has been lost (especially as a result of licensing, I might add), and criticize the improper use of licensing boards, I don't begrudge the funeral directors their professional title one bit. Indeed, I support further professionalization IF the term means to conduct themselves in a professional manner, improving the caliber of their activity with the help of their peers, and seeking to uphold standards that support thoughtful, equitable, and option-filled service.
The beauty of this is that it doesn't matter what I think about a professional board - they're free to do whatever they want that's non-criminal. However, I'm obligated as a citizen to pay attention to a government-mandated board that uses public funds to control the behaviors of others, and ensure that their rules support the rights of the people they're supposed to serve, but don't overreach into "rent-seeking" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking, "an attempt to obtain economic rent by manipulating the social or political environment in which economic activities occur, rather than by creating new wealth."
SUGGESTION: LET FUNERAL DIRECTORS HAVE THE TERM; JUST DON'T LET THEM BE THE ONLY ONES THAT CAN DO THE ACTIVITY
While licenses aren't required in Colorado, use of the term "Funeral Director" is reserved for those meeting the professional board's guidelines for education, testing, and ongoing conduct, just as Realtors reserve that word in the sale of Real Estate. It seems sensible for more States to consider this as a path that simplifies the tasks of a professional licensing board and de-regulates the funeral industry so that prices can be more competitive, actions and expression of values and desires can be more diverse, and the related trades and professions can evolve to keep pace with the demands of the time.
NOTE RE: EDUCATION: Licensing is not - and never has been - a replacement for education. As I've become more aware of the complex details involved in funeral service, and especially how it relates to cemeteries, funding for indigents, transport of remains, potential liabilities and criminal investigations, and all sorts of details that won't necessarily be experienced in the home funeral guide's world, I've become a strong proponent of education.
Death midwifery and home-funeral-guiding (in which I have some training) only encounters a small and narrow spectrum of what can happen, as the ideal home-funeral client is generally an "easy" case, in funeral director parlance. The home funeral movement is actually a response to the inflexibility of the funeral education and regulatory system to respond to simple needs and changing times. Indeed, home funeral guides can be seen as an emerging trade serving an unmet demand, and radical change on this front is to be expected.
PREDICTION: Look for the education funeral directors receive to shift dramatically, especially once the embalming fluids industry releases control of the educational text books historically used in funeral service education.
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The Natural End Pledge is NOT a certification body. Pledge signers are never inspected by anyone but the customers (who are free to comment on the Map)! Sponsors of the Natural End map are not endorsing the actions of pledge signers, and pledge signers are not endorsing the products or services of sponsors. This is a service provided for informational purposes only. As with any other product or service purchase, customers should exercise their own due diligence and not rely solely on representations made here.