These days, the green revolution touches on almost everything in our lives, and now it seems that even in death we can continue to be environmentally conscious.
Ecologically approved “green burials” are slowly beginning to replace the traditional ways that most are laid to rest, with a number of funeral homes now offering the greener service.
Green burials, sometimes also referred to as natural burials, emphasise a return to burial customs that eschew the use of highly toxic embalming fluids, concrete vaults and steel or wooden coffins.
In the US alone, it is estimated that almost 19 million litres of embalming fluid and 60,000 tons of steel are buried each and every year. According to a science researcher from Cornell University, that’s enough steel and fluid to build eight Eiffel Towers and fill eight Olympic size swimming pools.
People who choose to make their final resting place environmentally sound are given the option of being wrapped in a biodegradable shroud or their favourite blanket, or they can opt for a variety of green caskets. These e-coffins are made from recycled cardboard, pine, woven willow, bamboo and even dried banana plants.
Gravesites are also hand-dug and can be lined or marked only with biodegradable resources. “Even the grave sites themselves have no conventional memorial stones,” explains Freddie Johnson, executive director of Conservation Burial at a non-profit organisation that runs Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery in Florida. “What you see is nature,” Johnson adds.
If a plot in the ground doesn’t quite take your fancy, some companies are now offering a green burial at sea as well.
The smaller costs associated with eco-friendly burials are a major drawing card for the service. They can range anywhere between US$500- $1000, considerably cheaper than conventional funerals, which can run in excess of US$10,000.
While cremation still remains the fastest-growing funeral preference in North America, a recent study there found more and more respondents expressed curiosity about green burials and close to half said they would consider the option.
The trend seems to have caught on down under as well, with green cemeteries and natural burial sites also popping up around New Zealand and Australia.
“It’s so much more natural and simple, “ David Gold, a dental hygienist who plans to be buried at Prairie Creek told reporters. “It’s harmonious. It puts things (funeral plans) back in people’s control,” he added.