People often think about ways to minimize the financial impact of their inevitable passing on their loved ones. But increasingly, they are also considering the environmental impact of traditional burial.
Conventional burials consume land and can pollute the earth with non-biodegradable metals and toxic embalming fluids. To avoid this, consider types of green burials that are becoming more common.
Also known as woodland burials, this form of handling human remains is becoming more widespread. Woodland burials usually take place in designated forest burial areas, but some cemeteries have begun to offer natural burial areas. In forest burials, bodies are wrapped in natural linen shrouds or biodegradable caskets woven from wicker, bamboo, or willow.
Burials at Sea
Burial at sea, or scattering ashes at sea, is a long-time tradition for mariners and an option for families who can make proper arrangements compliant with governing laws and regulations.
A newer version of sea burials provides the opportunity for ashes to be tossed into the sea, encapsuled in containers that can create habitat for corals. This ensures the ceremony leads to new growth, fostering the building of coral reefs.
Traditional cremation is more eco-friendly than traditional burial of an embalmed body, but cremation uses an enormous amount of energy. Plus, various bodily implants—such as dental fillings and artificial joints—may exude toxins when burned.
Water cremation, or alkaline hydrolysis, uses a solution of potassium hydroxide to dissolve a body. Water cremation requires far less energy than conventional cremation, and it still offers the same benefits.
Consult State Regulations
Before choosing a green burial option, make sure it is available in your state. Some states still require concrete burial vaults, even if the body is not embalmed. The Green Burial Council maintains a directory of natural burial grounds and hybrid cemeteries in the US and Canada, as does the New Hampshire Funeral Resources and Education website.
Thinking about death and dying is upsetting for many people, and the traditional rituals of burial are comforting. But as green burials become more common, more families will find them just as comforting and appreciate a more sustainable way to say goodbye.