pic by Oleg Oprisco
The environmental impact of death
You cycle to work recycle and upcycle. Green living is your bag baby, but have you ever considered a green death? In the US alone, the two and half million people who die every year contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and ground toxicity. But there is a more natural way to go.
36% of Americans who died in 2010 were cremated. Propane or natural gas make this process possible, but carbon dioxide gas is released. Burial is even harsher on the environment. Every year 827, 060 gallons of embalming fluid are buried in cemeteries in the US. Embalming fluid consists mostly of formaldehyde. More than 30-million board feet of hardwood is utilized in the making of coffins and then buried. Every year, enough steel is buried with the coffins it adorns to build another Golden Gate Bridge. Not to mention the copper and bronze or the carbon footprint of manufacturing and transporting all those coffins.
Cemeteries themselves require the clearing of natural habitats and the application of herbicides and pesticides to maintain the grounds. Garden and ground maintenance also releases greenhouse gases as most landscaping equipment still runs off gas.
More and more people are opting for a death that is sustainable and environmentally responsible. Depending on the area in which you live, there are now concessions for people who want these kinds of burials. Here bodies are wrapped in natural fiber shrouds or placed in biodegradable wicker or wood caskets. No embalming fluid or other chemicals are used on the body. The burial site is usually on private property (notice of the burial place must be given when the property is sold) in a natural habitat. When you are laid to rest naturally, your body is able to return to the earth.
If you want a traditional funeral, buy a tree, a grove or a whole forest to offset your carbon. Alternatively, you can become a tree! The Bios Urn is a biodegradable urn made from coconut shell and is filled with peat and a plant seed. When you have been cremated, your ashes are placed in the urn which is planted and the seed begins to grow. You can choose what kind of plant you would like to be.
Check out the Natural Burial Association in Canada, the UK or the US.
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I always wanted to be left in a wildlife park or sanctuary. It sounds kinda vicious but I prefer it to the thought of being eaten by worms. Either way, I wont be noticing, will I.
Good idea! I have never really thought about the environmental impact of burials and as macabre as the worms may seem – like you I still prefer it!
Death = macabre | Natural Burial = absolute sense