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Even death has a ghoulish carbon footprint. And as concern grows over the impact burial services have on the environment, alternatives have been emerging. Of course, burials vary between personal and religious preferences, but most green alternatives hope to address the issues surrounding caskets and cremations. Why?
- Casket burials require a lot of wood — an estimated four million acres of forest annually in the U.S. alone. And preserving the body for an open casket ceremony uses toxic embalming fluid to keep a body looking “alive.” The fluid is made of formaldehyde, phenol, methanol, and glycerin, and can burn exposed flesh (of workers handling it) and be lethal at high concentrations; it also pollutes the environment.
- Meanwhile cremation, which over 50% of Americans now prefer, releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere such as carbon monoxide, fine soot, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals, and, very worryingly, mercury emissions from dental fillings.
If, like 84% of Americans, you’re spooked by these problems and are considering a greener burial, what are the options? One growing alternative is a cremation “reef ball.” Weighing anywhere from 600 to 4,000 pounds, these reef balls incorporate cremated ashes and are released into the ocean to replenish reef systems. That said, it’s a costly endeavor, currently averaging just under $4,000 (not including the cost of cremation).
The Netherlands introduced a more affordable alternative through mushroom coffins. These living coffins are (as their name implies) made of mushrooms and are both lighter and less expensive than a traditional coffin. The main benefit to the environment is its ability to speed up the body’s decomposition process from 10 years to less than three.
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On a more serious note, burials in general are an expensive process. The average burial costs around $10,000 and many are not prepared for the burden this leaves on loved ones. Consider starting a savings fund.
- The Washington Post (Where we found this story) 3 months old | 9 minutes long
- Business Insider Burials toll on environment 6 years old | 7 minutes long
- Bangkok Post The mushroom coffin 1 year old | 4 minutes long
- New York Times Varying green burials 2.5 years old | 13 minutes long
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These green burials are to die for.
Art Credit: ascii.co.uk