Garner’s Caskets Provide ‘Green’ Option
Jake Garner works on a pine casket in his shop in Randolph. (Herald / Tim Calabro) Jake Garner started his business, Jake Garner Caskets, which was recently profiled on WCAX-TV, with the goal of changing the standard for cremation caskets.
“If people live a ‘green,’ simple life, I want them to be able to choose an option that will have the same impact as the life they lived,” he said.
Garner started making caskets for his dad, Randy Garner, at Day’s Funeral Home in Randolph, about six months ago, and began offering them to other funeral homes in the area last month, including Boardway & Cilley in Chelsea.
“We had a special request for a simple pine box for a home burial,” said Randy, “and we needed it in a hurry. I asked Jake to make it and it turned out so well that he decided to try to make more of them and it turned into a business.”
The younger Garner’s business offers three models of handmade wooden caskets, all his own designs, which he calls “simple cremation containers.”
One is a simple pine box, a second is designed to allow viewing of the deceased at calling hours, and a third is a simple box with trim. They can all be used for traditional burials, too. He plans to offer other models eventually, possibly one made of maple.
Garner noted that cremation is on the rise in the U.S., with one million cremations so far this year—3500 of those here in Vermont. It takes 30-50 gallons of fuel (oil and propane) for each cremation.
“The caskets I make burn 30% faster and reduce the amount of fuel used, as well as the toxic emissions produced,” Garner said. “Everything I use for materials is low toxicity. I use pine boards, low VOC (volatile organic compound) wood glue, and metal fasteners. The clear coat I use on the wood is also a very low VOC product.”
Garner explained that he “was always interested in woodworking,” and after graduating from college in Maine, decided to get into residential construction. He worked in that field for about four years.
“I had also worked for my dad at the funeral home in my teens and I’ve seen a lot of products,” he added. “Last spring, when my dad asked me to build a plain casket for a client there, was when I realized what the standard cremation caskets were made of and decided to make my own.”
Other cremation caskets are constructed of MDF (medium density fiberboard) made by compacting wood fibers and adding a phenol formaldehyde resin. This resin used in the wood is highly toxic. When MDF is burned it releases deadly dioxin and formaldehyde fumes, and many states have banned the burning of it.
Garner noted that cremation itself cannot be labeled “green” because wood releases toxic smoke when it is burned.
“However, given that consideration, burning pine, non-toxic 10.7 g/L VOC wood glue, cotton, and muslin, is considerably less toxic than burning MDF, wood glue, and polyester,” he said.
Garner, who lives in Randolph with his wife, Teresa, is now working at his business full-time. For more information, go online to jakegarnercaskets.com.