Interview with Ellen Newman & Susan Koswan: How can we make dying sustainable?

This episode featured a conversation with Ellen Newman and Susan Koswan from the Good Green Death Project, an organization based in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario focused at promoting green burial options. Did you know that burials today have a pretty big environmental toll? For example, caskets are usually hundreds of pounds of material, between metal, wood and cushioning, burial vaults can be upwards to 3000 pounds of cement, and embalming fluid is often used at one gallon per 50 pounds of body. To put things into perspective, every year, tens of millions of the 7.4 + billion people on earth will die, and for all the people on the earth today, there's an estimated 15 dead and buried beneath them. Cremations can be a step in the right direction, but they still come at an environmental cost. This isn't usually a topic many of us like to think of, but it is a pertinent one. How can we make dying sustainable? I absolutely love the work that the Good Green Death Project is doing and loved this conversation with them. In this episode, we talked about some of the environmental issues related to traditional burials and cremations, greener options, some of the challenges for implementation here in Ontario, the work they’re doing and lots more.


Susan Koswan

Susan Koswan is the instigator of the Good Green Death Project. She has been fortunate over the past twenty-five years to be able to pursue her passions and causes while being a stay-at-home mom. From writing a novel (2080: The Return of Pareto) to eco-activism, to learning how to play guitar and sing, and even being the host and community producer for a six-part series on Rogers (The Green Scene), life has been good. Susan recently started a great gig as a freelance columnist for the Waterloo Region Record, focusing on environmental issues. Now she wants to find out how can we work together to make the end of our days and beyond, greener and more meaningful. 

Ellen Newman

Ellen Newman is the co-instigator of the Good Green Death Project. Ellen Newman is a licensed funeral director specializing in green, natural and family-led funeral, burial and end of life care options. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Green Burial Society. She is a graduate (2014) of the Contemplative End of Life Care program at the Institute of Traditional Medicine in Toronto. She is the host/facilitator of the Halton Hills Death Café. She serves as a member/trainer for the Infant and Pregnancy Loss Doula program of the Home Hospice Association and for the National Lay Chaplaincy Steering Committee of the Canadian Unitarian Council. She firmly believes that if people do not know what options are available to them, they do not have any. She is committed to working toward change that allows for a more participatory, empowered experience at the end of life.