Brek Jacobson doesn't want to put anything in the ground that doesn't break down.
That ideology is what led the Kent woodworker and owner of Down to Earth Woodworks to create his "green casket," an all wood coffin available directly to the public and via Bissler & Sons Funeral Home and Crematory.
Jacobson said the idea came about as part of a discussion with his friends in the woodworking business. He started researching eco-friendly burial methods when he came across a statistic showing the enormity of products used in modern burials.
Enough steel, used in coffin construction, is buried annually in the U.S. to build a span the size of the Golden Gate Bridge, according to Discovery.com.
Add to that the granite headstones, concrete burial vaults and other materials and Jacobson sees a lot of waste.
"You just think about the resources that go into building that and how much it costs to be buried in a cemetery. It’s astronomical. I thought, for one, this is a green product," he said of his wood casket.
Jacobson's caskets are made with zero steel. Not even nails are used to assemble it. Instead, engineered wood dowels fasten it together.
The wood caskets are not stained or finished. Biodegradable glue also is used. No lining is provided, but custom sizes are available.
"It’s meant to be kind of a raw, rustic product," Jacobson said. "People seem to like the idea. It’s intended to be a back-to-earth type of process."
It's essentially a no-frills, natural burial option. And that makes it cheaper. Jacobson declined to say how much the coffins cost but said, in general, they are cheaper than a typical steel coffin.
"I think typically people that go this route are not thinking about adding a lot of things to the inside of the casket," he said.
He started making the caskets in 2012.
For now, the wood use to build Jacobson's caskets is white pine that comes from areas certified by the USDA Forest Stewardship Program. That certification means the lumber used is being replanted faster than it's harvested.
Eventually he would like to consider using local hardwoods or sentimental lumber — wood that may have been kept or used by a family member.
Bissler & Sons is listed among the approved providers for green burials by the Green Burial Council, a non-profit organization that encourages environmentally sustainable death care in the U.S.
In the Kent area, Jacobson said there haven't been too many requests for the wood casket. Much of his work since opening shop in Kent in 2006 has been for cabinetry, custom furniture and other custom woodwork.
He anticipates that will change gradually.
As for Jacobson himself, he's not sure if he'll be buried in a wood casket.
"I’m toying with the idea of donating myself to science," he said.