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Green Life After Death

“Everything dies baby that’s a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back”

-Bruce Springsteen (Atlantic City)

Western burial traditions have been known to not be the most eco-friendly. Practices like burying coffins in concrete vaults interrupt the natural process of decomposition and embalming bodies in formaldehyde introduces hazardous toxins to the environment.  Fortunately, over the last few years, there has been a change in attitude, with more and more people opting for more green options.

Instead of using coffins with elaborate metal work or made from wood that has not been sustainably sourced, green burials opt for biodegradable options like wicker or cardboard. There are also new embalming fluids made from non-toxic and biodegradable oils or the option of using dry ice. Green burials are actually cheaper than traditional burials, though not as cheap as cremation.

Cremation, which can be considered greener then a traditional burial because it requires less resources, emits carcinogens during incineration. To reduce the impact of incineration it is recommended to make sure all medical devices are removed from the body prior of incineration, or to make a donation to a carbon fund.

The Green Burial Council, a non profit, provides the information needed to help “consumers” make educated choices for their burial.

Another burial option, that’s a little less traditional, is the mixing of ashes with concrete, then placing the structure in the ocean as a start up for reefs.  I remember hearing about this option a few years ago and finding it quite whimsical. There are two main companies involved with the underwater burials, The Great Burial Reef and Eternal Reefs.

Thinking about how your body will impact the environment after life has left the body can feel intimidating and scary. We have limited control of how or when life ends, which makes it even more important to begin considering burial options as early as possible.

Arlington Cemetery via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

  • Jun 4th, 2013 at 00:14 | #1

    Hi Maddie, thanks for sharing this, a really nicely put piece and an interesting read for those who want to know more.

    At Green Endings by Oakwood Funerals, we offer green funeral services and products, including prepaid funerals, to the communities of Perth and Western Australia.

    Our website contains a lot of useful information surrounding the concept, and we also provide a carbon calculator to help people calculate the carbon footprint of a funeral.

    You can visit us at http://www.greenendings.com.au for more information.

  • Jun 10th, 2013 at 19:24 | #2

    Cremation is the use of irreplacable fossil fuels to convert useful fertilizer into air pollution.

  • Scott Kruse
    Jun 13th, 2013 at 16:31 | #3

    Nontraditional burials not involving embalming, steel coffins, and a rubber – concrete lining (so as to not contaminate the water table) are frequently referred to as “illegal” or “not allowed”. People are not good at making decisions at the loss of a close relative or loved one. The funeral service does not mention “green” burial and makes a profit.

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