07292016Fri
Last updateWed, 27 Jul 2016 10am

News

Program aims to help teachers afford housing

The Los Altos School District and Los Altos Community Foundation have joined forces to create an online form for local residents to connect with teachers in need of housing.

The district seeks to help teachers handle the high cost of housing in the ...

Readmore

Loading...

Schools

AAUW supports local students at STEM Tech Trek camp

AAUW supports local students at STEM Tech Trek camp


Traci Newell/Town Crier
Tech Trek campers study the contents of a baby albatross’ stomach to understand the effect plastic can have on the marine ecosystem. The American Association of University Women provided scholarships that enabled seven...

Readmore

Loading...

Community

Local vet: Dogs need teeth brushing, too: Pet Pause

Home oral hygiene can make a tremendous difference in your dog’s comfort and health. There are several home care oral hygiene options from which to choose, but keep in mind that anything you can do to help prevent plaque and tartar accumulation...

Readmore

Loading...

Sports

It's been a big year for Little League

It's been a big year for Little League


Courtesy of Peter Jewett
The Los Altos & Los Altos Hills Little League’s 10-11 All-Stars won the Section 5 championship July 20. Front, from left: Connor Prahm, Jack Surdey, Jimmy Flynn, Rodrigo Ortiz, Justin Chou, Devan Reynard and Derek Gile....

Readmore

Loading...

Comment

Letter to the Editor

LAH should examine short-term rentals

I used to think that a short-term rental (Airbnb style) was operated by someone who has a spare bedroom to share and was thus not a big issue. Living in Los Altos Hills, I was surprised to find out that one of m...

Readmore

Loading...

Special Sections

Gardening for life: Strategies to make it easy

Gardening for life: Strategies to make it easy


Tanya Kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Succulents are a good choice for a small, low-maintenance garden that needs minimal water. Combine a variety of interesting colors and shapes.

If aches and pains are starting to limit your ability to garden, t...

Readmore

Loading...

Business

Maybe think twice before extending that warranty

Maybe think twice before extending that warranty


I was in an electronics store the other day and at checkout they asked – doing their best “Would you like some fries with that?” routine – if I would like to purchase a warranty.

I never buy a service contract. Most good pr...

Readmore

Loading...

People

ULF STAUBER

Ulf Stauber passed away at his home on July 13; he had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Ulf was born in Berlinchen, Germany on May 23, 1938. Following the Russian invasion in 1945, he, his mother and two brothers fled to Hamburg where Ulf gre...

Readmore

Loading...

News

Program aims to help teachers afford housing

The Los Altos School District and Los Altos Community Foundation have joined forces to create an online form for local residents to connect with teachers in need of housing.

The district seeks to help teachers handle the high cost of housing in the area. According to district officials, many teache...

Readmore

Business

Maybe think twice before extending that warranty

Maybe think twice before extending that warranty

I was in an electronics store the other day and at checkout they asked – doing their best “Would you like some fries with that?” routine – if I would like to purchase a warranty.

I never buy a service contract. Most good products come with a decent warranty, and if I shop ...

Readmore

Sports

It's been a big year for Little League

It's been a big year for Little League

Courtesy of Peter Jewett
The Los Altos & Los Altos Hills Little League’s 10-11 All-Stars won the Section 5 championship July 20. Front, from left: Connor Prahm, Jack Surdey, Jimmy Flynn, Rodrigo Ortiz, Justin Chou, Devan Reynard and Derek Gile. Middle: Thomas Walker, Alex Fuchs, Jake Skaggs, L...

Readmore

Community

Local vet: Dogs need teeth brushing, too: Pet Pause

Home oral hygiene can make a tremendous difference in your dog’s comfort and health. There are several home care oral hygiene options from which to choose, but keep in mind that anything you can do to help prevent plaque and tartar accumulation will pay big dividends. The most important thing ...

Readmore

Comment

Letter to the Editor

LAH should examine short-term rentals

I used to think that a short-term rental (Airbnb style) was operated by someone who has a spare bedroom to share and was thus not a big issue. Living in Los Altos Hills, I was surprised to find out that one of my neighbors in a small cul-de-sac is renting out a...

Readmore

People

ULF STAUBER

Ulf Stauber passed away at his home on July 13; he had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Ulf was born in Berlinchen, Germany on May 23, 1938. Following the Russian invasion in 1945, he, his mother and two brothers fled to Hamburg where Ulf grew up. He emigrated to the United States in 1963, l...

Readmore

Schools

AAUW supports local students at STEM Tech Trek camp

AAUW supports local students at STEM Tech Trek camp

Traci Newell/Town Crier
Tech Trek campers study the contents of a baby albatross’ stomach to understand the effect plastic can have on the marine ecosystem. The American Association of University Women provided scholarships that enabled seven local middle-school girls to attend the camp at S...

Readmore

Special Sections

Gardening for life: Strategies to make it easy

Gardening for life: Strategies to make it easy

Tanya Kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Succulents are a good choice for a small, low-maintenance garden that needs minimal water. Combine a variety of interesting colors and shapes.

If aches and pains are starting to limit your ability to garden, then gardening industry expert Toni Gattone has a s...

Readmore

Stepping Out

TheatreWorks gets political

TheatreWorks gets political

Kevin Berne/Special to the Town Crier
Tasha Lawrence and Richard Prioleau play journalists in TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s world premiere of “Confederates,” playing through Aug. 7 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley recently launched its 47th season with Suzann...

Readmore

Obituaries

ULF STAUBER

Ulf Stauber passed away at his home on July 13; he had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Ulf was born in Berlinchen, Germany on May 23, 1938. Following the Russian invasion in 1945, he, his mother and two brothers fled to Hamburg where Ulf grew up. He emigrated to the United States in 1963, l...

Readmore

Magazine

Festival offers fun for just about everyone

Festival offers fun for just about everyone

TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The 37th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival expects to draw thousands of people to the downtown village over the weekend. The festival features arts, crafts, food, wine, beer and children’s activities.

Readmore

Going green underground: You CAN take it with you when it comes to environmental values

Photo Town Crier File PhotoA field of flowers or a terrace of trees – green burials offer an environmentally friendly alternative to today's marble-stone cemeteries.
Lowering your carbon footprint – it’s all about switching from regular bulbs to CFLs, recycling garbage and buying produce from local farmers. It’s the least we can do while we’re here to sustain a future for generations to come.

Lowering your final footprint? It’s all about the options available to the environmentally conscious – a way to stay green even after you die, a way to help push up the daisies, so to speak – a way to return as dust to the earth with minimal harm to the Earth.

It’s called a green burial – highly popular in England and beginning to gain attention in the United States. Green burial is a natural alternative to what has become a traditional burial – embalming, casket and marble gravestone. And it’s cheaper.

 

Back then and now

Once upon a time before the Civil War and funeral directors, it fell to family members and close neighbors to prepare and dispose of the remains of a deceased loved one. The body was lovingly washed, dressed and set in the parlor for visitation. Burials followed.

The Civil War, with soldiers dying far from home and the large number of deaths, changed that. Embalming with arsenic to preserve bodies for the train ride home became a trend. Then came formaldehyde, metal caskets, concrete for burial vaults and steel to reinforce the concrete.

“The current burial process, besides being expensive, wastes great quantities of natural resources. It separates us biologically and psychologically from our host planet,” according to Jane Hillhouse’s message at www.finalfootprint.com. “And, perhaps more importantly, it strives to keep us separate from our loved ones at an important time in both lives.”

Hillhouse owns the Half Moon-based Web company that offers biodegradable-receptitacle options for burials.

Cemeteries use vast amounts of fertilizers and water for expansive lawns. From casket to vault to

mausoleum, cemeteries degrade the natural landscape.

Today’s cemeteries and gravesites are here forever although no one will remember those who are buried there 50 years from now. That rankles Deborah Meckler, president of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

“That land is useless,” Meckler said of modern cemeteries. “It’s destroyed as a natural ecosystem – as open space.”

But with cemeteries and plots filling fast and burial costs on the rise, another option for remains’ disposal has become popular. High heat

“The trend definitely is toward cremation, which I think is sad,” Meckler said. “Cremation has two downsides – the energy used in drying a body and the particulate matter emitted.”

You don’t want to be downwind of a crematorium, Meckler said.

With dioxins, nitrous oxide and concentrations of mercury from amalgam fillings in teeth, as well as smoke particulates, cremation is far from being Earth-friendly.

 

Go green gone

With a strong national lobby in the National Funeral Directors Association, Meckler said the FCA was established to educate the public about options for the disposition of remains.

“The funeral industry was packaging service options – people were being charged a lot,” she said.

The FCA successfully lobbied the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit the practice. Consumers are presented with individual options when burying loved ones.

With a bachelor’s degree in natural resource management and conservancy, Meckler’s mission goes beyond protecting consumers to protecting the Earth and educating the public about green burials.

“People seem very interested in this, but most people don’t know about it,” she said.

As open space is procured for green-burial sites – Forever Fernwood in San Mateo County is one such example – Meckler hopes laws can be changed to enable burial sites to be reused after 50 years, long after a body has decomposed. And grazing pastures are a waste of space, too.

“There’s no reason not to use agricultural lands (for green burials),” she said.

 

Green rules

The rules for going green underground are simple – and cheaper on the pocketbook, Meckler said.

• Bodies cannot be embalmed. Contrary to popular belief, embalming is not usually required by law.

“It doesn’t stop the smell, it doesn’t stop the decay. It just makes you look better,” she said.

• Burial containers must be biodegradable. Untreated pine boxes, shrouds – Final Footprint offers wicker coffins – the container must return to earth like the body.

• Levels or horizons of the plot must be removed and returned, level by level. Meckler said it’s important not to mix the different layers of soil in order to protect the living organisms.

• Natural grave markers only are allowed, including a log piece or stones with written or chiseled names. Some green cemeteries issue GPS data on the location.

“But it should just look like open space,” Meckler said of a green-burial site.

And it’s important to understand the difference between a burial and a funeral – just because a burial is simple doesn’t mean the farewell needs to be, she added.

“You can have lavish flowers and music. A green burial doesn’t negate the excesses of a funeral,” she said.

 

Lessons learned

For Meckler, it’s important to prepare a dead loved one for burial rather than handing the body over to strangers. The FCA’s Web site offers advice and guidelines in returning to the traditions of bygone days.

Surprisingly, people aren’t appalled at the idea.

“They’ve cared for loved ones in hospice – for many, they want to do it. It’s no big deal,” she said. “Touching is very important to get that sense of ‘goneness.’”

Others don’t want to discuss death.

“One of our taglines is, ‘Would it kill you to talk about?’” Meckler said.

But while older adults often do want to talk about their deaths and their disposition wishes, children don’t always want to hear about them.

“It’s good to put it in writing,” she said.

And as leaching arsenic from Civil War soldiers’ embalmed bodies becomes a problem in groundwater in the East, Meckler hopes green burials become the trend.

For more information, visit www.fcapeninsula.org or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Contact Mary Beth Hislop at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Submit a Letter to the Editor

The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at bruceb@latc.com. Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

You can also have your say right here at losaltosonline.com – scroll to the bottom of any story to add a comment. 

Schools »

Schools
Read More

Sports »

sports
Read More

People »

people
Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

photoshelter
Browse and buy photos