ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A directive was once written to Dr. Mallory McDuff.  It was from her father.


What You Need To Know 

Dr. Mallory McDuff has documented her journey of discovering green burials

She has considered forms such as green burials, aquamation and body composting

Cremation is used by about half of Americans and predicted to grow to around 80% in a few decades


It had directions on how exactly he wanted burials following his and her mom’s deaths. 

“It’s a way to embody their love even after they’re gone,” McDuff said. 

The burials he wrote about were specifically green burials. 

“It involves three things: no embalming, no concrete vault in the ground and only biodegradable materials for the coffin or shroud,” McDuff said. 

After she followed these wishes, it led to a journey to discover her own plans. 

“Hearing my parents after their death and living into their love for the earth has been one of the defining, unexpected paths of my life,” McDuff read from a novel she wrote. 

She considered cremation, which is used by about half of Americans and predicted to grow to around 80% in a few decades.

“It was only later that I found out that fossil fuels required to burn a body for several hours is 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, so I decided to look at what other sustainable options for my body are, including green burial, aquamation, which a lot of people don’t know about which is water cremation, even body composting,” McDuff said. 

Her desire to choose her own natural burial grew. This is a journey she documented in a novel, "Our Last Best Act." 

Cemeteries throughout the state offer green burials, but McDuff realized her backyard cemetery didn’t. 

This motivated her to be part of the sustainable end-of-life movement. 

“I started like a year-long, one-woman campaign to advocate for green burial at the Warren Wilson Cemetery,” McDuff said.

The Warren Wilson Cemetery now offers the burials.

“One of the most important things we can do about death is just to talk about it with the people we care about,” McDuff said. 

She says she believes her parents would be proud. 

“I didn’t think that I was actively listening to my dad talk about green burial, but clearly, I was,” McDuff said.