Each year, thousands of acres of land become burial grounds in the Western world, not to mention the 1.5 million tons of concrete and 30 million feet of wooden board used in common burial traditions. If you hope your loved ones will honor both your life and the planet when you depart the Earth, consider these green funeral options that are quickly growing in popularity.
Biodegradable and Sustainable Coffins
For environmentally conscious Americans looking to be buried in biodegradable coffins, rather than the wood and steel options we see most often, the Green Burial Council suggests either wicker or cardboard caskets. Many people take comfort in the fact that both materials will naturally become part of the soil over time. Sustainable wooden caskets are also a popular green option, since they are made from sustainably harvested materials approved by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Dry Ice Embalming
If the thought of being embalmed with gallons of synthetic preservatives concerns you, dry ice is a non-toxic alternative that is steadily growing in popularity. Since it contains no synthetic chemicals or toxins, you can be sure that your remains won't do harm to the soil after you're buried. Although dry ice will not preserve your remains for as long as traditional formaldehyde will, it does provide several weeks of perfect preservation.
If you prefer cremation over burial but have concerns about the exorbitant amounts of energy used in the cremation process, resomation is a greener alternative. In this process, the body's remains are broken down not by fire, but through a by water and alkali method that breaks down the remains chemically. Once complete, a sterile liquid remains that won't harm the environment when it reenters the Earth's natural water cycle.
Much like resomation, the process of cryomation is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation. In this process, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze your remains until they become brittle. At that point, the body can be turned into a powder that can be composted, scattered like ashes or buried traditionally.
Unlike its crematory counterpart, the process of bio-cremation emits no carbon vapors into the air. Water and potassium hydroxide wash over the body at high temperatures until it dissolves naturally. Because no flames are used, there are no toxins released into the environment.
When planning a green burial, it's also important to choose a biodegradable shroud or clothing to be buried in. Natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and silk all break down easily over time and will become one with the soil, and they do not release harmful toxins as long as they aren't died with harsh coloring chemicals.
Even if you do choose a traditional burial in a wooden and steel casket, you can still lessen the environmental impact of your death by choosing to be buried in a green cemetery. Unlike traditional cemeteries that generally feature few trees and are not inviting to wildlife, green cemeteries are meant to create habitats for plants and animals to thrive. Such cemeteries allow for an entirely natural burial in a beautiful and peaceful natural environment, and they ensure protection of important natural landscapes.
If any of these green funeral options appeal to you, it's important to talk to your loved ones and make your wishes known ahead of time. With proper planning, you can ensure that your funeral is Eco-friendly and does no further damage to Mother Earth.