(Photo: Courtesy Esmerelda Kent; illustration: Jessica De Jesus)

Green Burial Shrouds Ensure You Leave the Planet as Gently as You Entered It

Esmerelda Kent is being honored by In Her Company, a campaign celebrating the power, creativity, and impact of 30 inspiring women entrepreneurs.
Dec 16, 2014· 2 MIN READ
TakePart Staff

After a lifetime of environmental awareness, many are turning to green burials to ensure the footprint they leave behind is in harmony with the earth. Since 2005, Esmerelda Kent has created unique burial garments—her modern take on natural shrouds used since ancient times—to lay loved ones to rest.

Kinkaraco Green Funeral Products
HQ: San Francisco
Industry: Green funeral products
Founded: 2005

Kinkaraco Green Funeral Products was created by a costume designer turned green cemeterian with a wish to create a sustainable aesthetic for 21st-century death care by re-creating traditional burial shrouds.

TakePart: How did you come up with the idea for your business? Was there a turning point that convinced you to start your own business?

Esmerelda Kent: In 2004, I was working in California’s first green cemetery, and people were requesting a “shroud burial,” but all the shrouds [long pieces of fabric that wrap around the body, kind of like bunting around a newborn] were religious or long pieces of cloth that didn’t work well. So I designed the first constructed shroud for green burial, with straps for lowering. My prototype shroud debuted on the TV show Six Feet Under in 2005—it was the first televised depiction of a green burial—and I began the company after that.

TakePart: What excites or inspires you? What do you care about?

Kent: Being of service to people who are dealing with death, studying Buddhism and developing greater compassion and a peaceful mind, textiles, and disrupting the existing American funeral aesthetic.

TakePart: Do you see any common challenges among female business owners and entrepreneurs?

Kent: Yes. The world is pretty much still owned by men, who often have a different motivation than women—more singular, more power and wealth, and who make a lot of the “rules.” Men are taken more seriously and are listened to in a way many women are not. (Especially if the women are short!)

TakePart: What’s been the proudest moment that made you feel like your hard work was worth it?

Kent: Having my customers tell me how much my products and services of directing them to local green cemeteries, good ethical funeral homes, and home funeral guides has been of great benefit to them and their families. Having one wealthy funeral homeowner tell another considering carrying our products, “Anything that lady says, you can take to the bank!”

TakePart: What’s one thing you wished someone had told you about your first year in business?

Kent: To pay attention to legal deadlines—and if someone could have only predicted the 2008 recession!


(Photo: Courtesy Kinkaraco Green Funeral Products)

TakePart: What’s the best mistake you ever made?

Kent: Not accepting an early buyout and investment from a competitor.

TakePart: Why is sustainability important to you? How do you incorporate sustainability into your product and business practice?

Kent: By re-creating the ancient burial shroud, Kinkaraco has ecology, economy, and elegance. Each year, the 22,500 cemeteries across the U.S. bury

30 million board feet of hardwoods in caskets
90,272 tons of steel in caskets
14,000 tons of steel in vaults
2,700 tons of copper and bronze in caskets
1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete in vaults
827,060 gallons of embalming fluid.

This post is part of the series "In Her Company," created in collaboration with Eileen Fisher and designed to celebrate the power, creativity, and impact of women-owned businesses. Check out more stories at takepart.com/in-her-company.