Protecting The Environment After Death

While the average life expectancy is 78.8 years and many people expect to live to at least that age, approximately 2.5 million people die in the United States each year. With the growing trend of living green to protect the environment by lowering carbon footprints, there is a corresponding growth in concern about the effects that traditional burial and cremation are having on the environment. In addition, the more than 76 million baby boomers who are having to plan funerals for themselves and loved ones are leading to new ways of personalizing how people choose to be laid to rest after death.

So if you are concerned about your impact on the ecosystem once you die, here are a few ways to ensure that your interment is as healthy to the environment as you tried to be in life.

A green burial

There are a number of things that are left in the earth during a traditional burial that are cause for concern among those concerned about the environment. Each year in the United States, approximately 1.5 million gallons of embalming fluid, much of which contains formaldehyde, are buried with the approximately 1.5 million people who choose to be buried. In order to prevent these toxins from leaching into the ground, there is the addition of more than 100 thousand tons of steel, 10 tons of copper and brass, 30 million feet of non-biodegradable wood and about 1.5 million tons of concrete. Not to mention the plastic, vinyl and fiberglass that are also added in the process.

In order to overcome this problem, more and more people are choosing to have a green burial in which the body, which has remained free of embalming fluids, is put into a bio-degradable coffin for burial. This trend is being facilitated by a growing number of funeral homes and cemeteries across the country. The practice is thought to be one way of reducing pollution while appropriately utilizing land and energy resources. 

A green cremation

The option of cremation is on the rise in the US. In fact, in 2014, cremation accounted for approximately 46 percent of the total disposition and it is expected to rise to about 70 percent by the year 2030. In some states it has already topped that projection. However, traditional cremation comes with its own concerns of the energy usage, mercury and carbon emissions that are not lost on those who provide the service.

That is one reason why there is now a growing trend of cremation services that use an alkaline solution to disintegrate the body at an 80 percent cooler temperature than the high heat in traditional cremation. This process is thought to result in about a 75 percent reduction in carbon-based emissions and is marketed specifically to the environmentally conscious.