She struggled to find an eco-friendly casket for a loved one. So she launched a business to make them herself

Green Burials

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Cortney Gusick’s father died eight years ago, she searched for a casket to match his environmentally-conscious lifestyle but was turned off by the metal and plastic models she saw.

“For our family it didn’t make sense in the end to then, in my dad’s name as his eco-legacy, bury these materials in the ground,” she said.

After a lot of searching, she found a simple casket made of pine wood.

Gusick used that lesson to fashion a business building wooden caskets as eco-friendly options for families who want to balance their burial needs with their environmental concerns.

"As the body was designed to decompose and return itself to the earth, it seems only appropriate and fitting that the receptacle that it's in should do the same," she said.

Her company, Pahiki Eco-Caskets, uses only untreated Hawaii grown wood that arborists supply to the Waimanalo Wood sawmill.

"I don't like to remove trees but when I do I try to make sure that the wood is put someplace that it's going to be used again," arborist Orrin Nakanelua said.

The caskets are fashioned from monkeypod, pine or albezia trees.

Gusick and fellow casket builder Logan Baggett use non-toxic glue to piece the parts together, and a coconut oil finish to give the wood a natural sheen.

It can take up to three days to build a wooden casket.

"We're looking to work towards one day of being able to put the partially assembled pre-fab parts that we have in storage, to move it through," Baggett said.

Pahiki’s caskets are priced from $2,000 to $4,700, depending on the wood. They are significantly less expensive than their conventional counterparts.

"We also have payment plans that we offer for families in the event that they can't afford even our lowest price point," Gusick said.

Pahiki Eco-Caskets has been in business for about a year. The company’s caskets are also sold to families who use them for memorial services then cremation.

Gusick said she’s sold about 30 wooden caskets and word is getting around about her organic burial option.

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