Concerned About the Environment? Rethink Your Burial.

August 28, 2018 Sayuri Kagami Uncategorized Tags: , , , 0 Comments

Over the past few decades, scientists have been sounding the alarm over climate change and the dangers posed to the environment as a result of a variety of human activity. This has led, over time, to the adoption of various practices meant to increase our sustainability and minimize our impact on the environment. Most people probably only consider their day-to-day lives when looking at how they might be more environmentally friendly. However, we might also want to think about the impact our death might have on the environment.

I recently came across this informative video from Vox which discusses the environmental costs of a traditional burial, along with alternatives such as cremation and other more uncommon forms of disposing of human remains:

Some of the negative impacts of burial?

  • The use of cement, wood, and metal expended to construct burial plots and coffins;
  • The use of space (approximately 32 square feet per person) which must be reserved for a burial plot (and which consequently can’t be used for any other reason); and
  • The release of formalin, a toxic carcinogen, along with other untreated waste.

In addition to the environmental costs of burial, the video notes the actual monetary costs of burial, which greatly exceed the costs of cremation.

The video notes that cremation still comes with some costs to the environment, including the release of pollutants (including mercury) and the use of some resources such as natural gas and electricity (from heating the body). Overall, however, cremation appears to be a more environmentally friendly approach to disposing of remains. As a bonus, the video points out some interesting activities that can be done with ashes, such as placing them in fireworks (giving a whole new meaning to the expression ‘going out with a bang’).

For the most environmentally-conscious out there, the video also presents the options of natural burial where non-embalmed bodies are buried in either biodegradable containers or without any form of casket. The body is allowed to decompose naturally such that pollution and resource usage is minimized. More theoretical methods such as breaking down a body frozen in liquid nitrogen or dissolving human tissue in a mix of heated water and lye are also presented.

For anyone curious about the environmental impact of their death, the video is an informative six minute session.

For more on different burial options, see our blog on extreme burials (including launching cremated remains into space) and our blog on what to do with ashes.

Thanks for reading!

Sayuri Kagami

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