Eco-Friendly Burial: Leaving a Sustainable Legacy

Environment Friendly Living

If being conscious of your impact on the earth is important to you, why should that value be overlooked when your soul departs this earth? To answer this question, many

baby boomers

are looking to eco-friendly burials.

The founder of the

Green Burial Council

estimated that due to human burials, Americans bury more metal each year than was needed to build the Golden Gate bridge and bury

enough concrete

to build a highway from New York City to Detroit.

The eco-friendly alternative to classic burial seems to point to cremation, right?

Well, not really. Though cremation does mean you aren’t taking up an 8ft by 2ft rectangle of space in some burial plot in your hometown, it doesn’t necessarily mean your exit from earth was all that sustainable.

The typical machine necessary to conduct the cremation process requires approximately

2,000 cubic feet

of natural gas and 4 kilowatt hours of electricity per human body. This means the process produces around 250 pounds of CO2.

In addition to CO2, the incineration process also

emits noxious substances

like dioxin, hydrochloric acid, and sulfur dioxide.

You don’t want your soul to be in the middle of crossing the river Styx before you remember you didn’t plan an eco-friendly burial while you were still alive. It may not be fun to think about now, but it’s probably better to plan ahead than exist in eternal turmoil because you didn’t consider the environmental impact of the cessation of your earthly existence.

But I’m Dead! Who Cares?

Classic western burial practices are pretty clearly unsustainable. Between the amount of space cemeteries take up and the amount of resources that go into maintaining these spaces, it is not a process designed to be kind to Mother Earth.

Oregon State University actually has a course dedicated to the sustainability of cemeteries. The course, called the

Sustainable Cemeteries Studies Lab

, examines the risk-management of soil and water health, landscape management and design, natural resource and toxic use reduction, and the support of native ecosystems, among many other topics.

The course claims to be the first of its kind, and represents a cultural shift in thinking about the way we honor and care for our deceased.

Many funeral homes actually offer eco-friendly burials.

Greenwood Heights Funeral & Cremation Services

in New York offers different variations, such as biodegradable caskets and urns, natural stone or GPS device in lieu of pre-manufactured headstones, and burials with no concrete vaults or liners. They also offer ash-scattering at sea and underwater sea reefs.

Green funeral preparations don’t have to be pricey, either. Amy Cunningham of Greenwood said that many of these funerals can be

more inexpensive

than conventional ones, and

her blog

lists affordable cemeteries outside of New York City.

New cremation practices are also in the works: a relatively new method called “

alkaline hydrolysis

” dissolves bodies in liquid that is then safe enough to flush into the sewage system. This method does require about 300 gallons of water per human body, so it is still not the ideal eco-friendly disposal method we’ve all been hoping for.

How to Plan an Eco-Friendly Burial

There are many different directions to go in when it comes to sustainable burial practices.

The Natural Burial Company

sells products online, from woven wicker caskets to urns to shrouds and shrouding boards.

Pexels via Pixabay
The company takes inspiration from the United Kingdom’s

woodland burial movement

, and their woven caskets are still made by the suppliers that started the U.K. movement.

The Green Burial Council, formed in 2005, sets standards for eco-friendly burial practices, and awards certifications based on burial practices and transparency.

Their website has a list of

eco-friendly products

and services that pass the standards set out by GBC’s unique aspirations.

It is interesting to note that The Natural Burial Company clearly states that they

do not condone certification

in the natural burial movement. According to their website, it would be a mistake to “pick one narrow path and force everyone else to adapt to it.”

Whatever the case may be, if you are interested in pursuing an eco-friendly burial, researching methods and products is an invaluable step to ensure success on all levels of the process.

Eco-Friendly Burials are the Future

Ultimately, between cremation and different forms of burial, there are a significant amount of options for having a respectful send off into the afterlife (or lack thereof, depending on your beliefs) without compromising.

These practices depend on personal preference, practicality, and religion, among other things. As the Green Burial Council points out, there is no “wrong” way to do this. Death and celebration of life are very personal experiences, and choosing the right experience for your unique situation is paramount to the process.

A cultural shift away from traditional western burial practices and towards more sustainable choices is only just beginning. And you could be part of the shift, even if you’re not around to see the fruits of your labor.

For more information about eco-friendly burials and cremations, check out the Natural Burial Company and their

online store

, in addition to the

Green Burial Council.


Mary Mignone

Mary is a writer and editor for Poplar Network and

This is is a syndicated post. Read the original at

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