Re-envisioning Funerals and Burials: A Discussion on New Practices and Needed Policies

funeral.pngThere are about 2.4 million funerals in the U.S. every year, and the average funeral costs $8,000-$10,000. Increasingly, publicly traded corporations are buying or establishing funeral homes. As the funeral industry grows along with our aging population, we have an opportunity to re-imagine the funeral and burial marketplace in ways that support independent home funeral guides and artisans, green burials, and other community-based memorial practices.

A panel of those who are working to grow a viable field of practice for home funeral practitioners will present, take questions, and discuss ideas. We'll learn about family rights, the state and local laws that inhibit the diversification of the funeral industry and discuss strategies for change. Together, we'll discuss the future of death care, opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, and ways to support positive change in this field.




Tom Long, Founder, Grounded Guild

Tom’s Goal: Change the paradigm of Death Care in America; create a social enterprise and web marketplace for families, home funeral guides, and artisans to find each other; People, Planet, Prosperity, Purpose.

Tom’s Experience:

  • 12 years directing organized camps, environmental education and retreat facilities; accreditation of 3 locations (site & facility, food service, programs, staffing, health & safety, administration, etc.)
  • 20 years in business including 13 years as an entrepreneur; built the B2B business through community networking and customer testimonials; provided unparalleled services to 325 employers; 10 staff; acquired a competitor; sold to a reputable, regional service.
  • 3 years, finance and human resources for a county-wide United Way
  • 25 years in Rotary; service above self to club, community, vocation, and international projects


norman.jpgNorman de Vall, Golden Gate Burial Services and former Mendocino County Supervisor
Norman de Vall, former Field Program Director of the Oceanic Society, marine surveyor and Yacht and Ship Broker, has extensive sailing experience and has scattered ashes at sea since the 1970's.  In 2009 he founded Golden Gate Burial Services offering Full-Body Burial at Sea.

Objective: While Full-Body Burial at Sea is illegal within the state three-mile limit under certain conditions it is legal in federal waters regulated by the EPA.


jerrigracelyons.jpgJerrigrace Lyons, Final Passages

Jerrigrace Lyons is a Minister, death midwife, educator, home funeral guide and Reiki Master. She founded the educational non-profit organization, Final Passages in 1995 to inform people about little known funeral options, natural death care rights and practicalities, green burial and the benefits of bringing funerals back into the home and family care. 

As a pioneer in the new field of home funeral guidance, Jerrigrace has facilitated hundreds of family-directed home funerals, offering choices that specifically address, social, environmental, spiritual and financial needs. She co-authored a complete guidebook, Creating Home Funerals and has appeared on radio, television and in worldwide publications including The Wall Street Journal (front page), USA Today, the NY and LA Times and The London Telegraph. Jerrigrace is featured in the acclaimed POV/PBS Documentary entitled, “A Family Undertaking” and she has also created and developed a 3-tiered certificate program in the field of conscious dying and home funeral guidance called, “Honoring Life’s Final Passage”. She is a board member emeritus of the National Home Funeral Alliance and currently serves on the Legislative Committee.

barry_v.jpgBarry Vogel, Attorney, Counselor & Mediator and Host and Producer of Radio Curious

Primary legal interests: The right to be buried on one’s own land, the ultimate “back to the land” activity, is a current part of my law practice with cases in Mendocino and Sonoma County.  This is part of my larger Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate and Trust Administration law practice.  

I believe we each have fundamentals rights to shape our individual family life.  My past work includes successful challenges to laws prohibiting abortion procedures; laws prohibiting the right to tell someone where she can obtain a safe abortion; laws precluding no-fault divorce; laws requiring urban building codes to be the only form of home construction on rural real property; laws prohibiting the use of a compost privy or an outhouse, thus requiring the use of fresh potable water in flush toilets; and the right not to be poisoned by neighboring forest land owners. 

Radio Curious,, is a weekly half-hour nationally distributed public radio program, now in its 25th year.


Sharon Ponciano, Alternative funeral and burial activistsharon_ponciano.jpg
Sharon Ponciano is a Death Education Advocate in Sacramento who has worked in co-organizing monthly educational teleconferences for the National Home Funeral Alliance for the last 2 years, and currently serves as a board member of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Northern California. In her own community she has co-hosted Death Cafes, and offers Natural Death Care Education through the Community Skills Exchange. Her mentors and teachers include Heidi Boucher, Jerrigrace Lyons, Heather Massey, Olivia Bareham, and Stephen Jenkinson. And, yes, she is a licensed funeral director.


Megan_Amaral.jpgMegan Amaral, Moderator
Megan Amaral has held a variety of senior positions in nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and co-operative enterprises and currently manages the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley. She has a long standing personal and professional interest in community arts and the role of culture and community on quality of life. Megan holds a M.S. in Community Development from UC Davis.




Janelle2.jpgJanelle Orsi, Host
Janelle Orsi is a lawyer, advocate, writer, and cartoonist focused on cooperatives, the sharing economy, urban agriculture, shared housing, local currencies, and community-supported enterprise. She is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center and author of Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy


June 10, 2015 at 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Impact HUB Berkeley
2150 Allston Way
Suite 400 (4th Floor)
Berkeley, CA 94704
United States
Google map and directions
Eunice ·
Janelle Orsi Ricardo Nunez

Will you come?

$10.00 Please support SELC!
No one turned away for lack of funds, but the Sustainable Economies Law Center could really use your support! Thank you!

Showing 11 reactions

  • Betsy Morris
    canceled rsvp 2015-05-16 08:43:12 -0700
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    canceled rsvp 2015-05-16 08:43:05 -0700
  • Chris Tittle
    canceled rsvp 2015-05-16 08:42:54 -0700
  • Raines Cohen
    rsvped 2015-05-16 05:13:04 -0700
  • Chris Tittle
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  • Betsy Morris
    rsvped 2015-05-16 05:13:02 -0700
  • Janelle Orsi
    rsvped 2015-05-16 05:12:58 -0700
  • Ricardo Nunez
    rsvped 2015-05-16 05:12:57 -0700
  • Tom Long
    is hosting. 2015-05-15 09:55:29 -0700
  • Janelle Orsi
    is hosting. 2015-05-15 09:54:33 -0700
  • Sustainable Economies Law Center
    is hosting. 2015-05-15 09:36:47 -0700

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