Like it or not, passing away is a natural thing that happens to humans. There are interesting facts about human body decomposition alone after death. But, funerals can be damaging to the environment as well. Luckily, you can make your afterlife more interesting (and useful) by giving back to the environment. Here’s how.
1. Natural Burial
Not so much a new invention as a return to old ways, natural burials omit embalming and the concrete vaults that you can find in modern cemeteries. Bodies are wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket, the idea being that they will decompose naturally.
The natural burial movement started in 1998 with the opening of the all-natural cemetery Ramsey Creek preserve in Westminster, S.C., said Mark Harris, the author of “Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial” (Scribner, 2007). Today, there are at least 50 natural cemeteries in the US.
The movement is driven by dissatisfaction with typical funeral rites. “Most people, when they find out what happens in the embalming room, they’re pretty horrified,” said Harris, who blogs at grave-matters.blogspot.com. “They can’t believe the cost, which is outrageous, and then there is this growing concern about the environmental effects of all of these procedures and of all of the goods and resources devoted to this modern method.”
In addition, Harris said, many natural cemeteries double as nature preserves, and many people like the idea of contributing to the ecosystem after death. “You’re actually benefiting the environment,” he said. “You’re allowing the body to rejoin the cycle of life.”
2. Eternal Reefs
For those who prefer to nourish a more aquatic environment after death, there’s also the Eternal Reef option. Georgia-based Eternal Reefs creates artificial reef material out of a mixture of concrete and human cremains (the crushed bone left over from cremations). These heavy concrete orbs are then placed in areas where reefs need restoration, attracting fish and other organisms that turn the remains into an undersea habitat.
3. Efficient cremation
Cremation isn’t exactly an eco-friendly funeral. But there is something called efficient cremation. Crematorium in Bath, UK, aims to reduce its carbon footprint by making their cremation schedule more efficient. There are new burners, and they only do the cremation when enough bodies are waiting.
Rosemary Tiley, the local council’s bereavement manager, said, “We need to manage our workload as effectively and as efficiently as possible, both to minimize gas usage as an environmental issue and to look after our new cremators,”
“Which we hope will last a long time. In order to do this we will fire up only one cremator if there are insufficient cremations to warrant both being used. We will store coffins overnight to achieve a balanced workload and gain the greatest efficiency from our cremators.”
Some people, like funeral director Carol Spalding, believe that this could upset mourners. She said, “If somebody you love has died I’m not sure that you would be particularly happy about them being left overnight for cremation,”
“It’s a very difficult subject to broach – you’re sitting in a room with someone who’s feeling very raw. There are a few tears. You are talking about delicate things like readings and vicars. Then you have to ask them to sign the form and tell them the cremation might not take place that day.”
Cremation is a growing concern for environmentalists as they are a large source of carbon emissions, as well as mercury pollution caused by burning tooth fillings. Cremating a body also takes between one and two hours, using a vast amount of energy. However, some crematoriums take a greener approach like this one.
I didn’t find any pictures or videos about this British crematorium, so I put the video of an eco-friendly cremation from India. Sorry for that!
4. Biodegradable coffins
If you still prefer traditional funeral, yet you have concerns about the environment, you can opt for bio-degradable coffins, shrouds, or both. With a range of shroud material available such as cotton, wool and banana leaf and range of coffins from cardboard, wicker and others, there will be an option suited to you. Additionally, there are recycled wood options available as well as those with eco-friendly cotton lining.
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WOW – my coffin design is not just exhibiting at Dubai Design Week BUT now it will also be at Dutch Design Week in October!! I’ve been selected to present my work at the Antenna 2018 conference with 19 other graduates from around the globe. I’m so unbelievably honored and cannot wait to share my passions with the world. Check out the video link in my bio to learn about my coffin and why sustainable death practices need to be the future 🌿
A textile coffin built from sustainable materials that hopes to bring us closer to the planet that we live on. LEAVES works to make the burial process a much greener ritual. It uses rope which has been treated with a dye and embedded with spores, encouraging fungus growth that speeds up decomposition and eats any toxins in the body.
A tree is then planted on the burial site, making the most of this nutrient rich soil. instead of cemeteries, Shaina imagines luscious areas where nature is representative of the greater purpose our bodies can have.
The concept involves wrapping the body in natural cotton, laying it on a pine wood surface and securing it with a woven netting of rope that has been laced with fungal spores.
Once the body is buried, the fungi multiply and speeds up the body’s decomposition while absorbing its toxins so that only natural byproducts, such as oxygen and nitrogen go into the soil.
The aim is for the human body to return to nature. “Leaves thinks about how fungus can be the connection that brings humans back to the circle of life. It provides us with the opportunity to acknowledge the transformation from death into new life. With the use of fungus, it helps our bodies have a greater purpose after death,” said Shaina Garfield, the designer.
6. Green funeral service
Go an extra mile for the environment by having an eco friendly wake or funeral service. Even if you don’t opt for any of the ideas above, you can still make a funeral greener by doing these things.
Use recycled paper for programs or hymn sheets, source flowers from organic, local growers, arrange a carpool that transports people from location to location during the funeral, and get organic food refreshments.
7. Infinity Burial Suit
In addition to organic burial pods, the Infinity Burial Suit has also been designed to ‘return your body to the earth without harming the environment’. Made of completely biodegradable material, this full body suit is worn by the deceased to remove harmful chemicals from the burial process and this is later transferred back into plant life. Being buried in the Infinity Burial Suit will remove all vital nutrients from a body to enrich the environment and encourage new life.
Shaina Garfield redesigns death with eco-friendly macramé coffin
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