A large tree with roots reaching into the ground and surrounding an urn
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Eco-friendly ways to go six feet under

Dead Serious

Eco-friendly ways to go six feet under

Literally push up daisies with these green burial alternatives.

Recently we wrote about the ways the funeral industry impacts climate change. As rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns affect our lives, we’ll also have to alter how we manage our dead. So it’s never too early to start thinking of ways to make even our final moments sustainable for the environments around us. Luckily, there are a growing number of eco-funeral options available. If you’d like to learn more about green burial alternatives, continue reading.

  1. What is a green burial?
  2. Types of green burial alternatives
  3. Conclusion

What is a green burial?

Unlike a traditional burial, a green burial is defined as a burial process that emphasizes simplicity and sustainability. But how are traditional burials bad for the environment? Well, they require large amounts of chemicals for the body and materials for coffins. Likewise, why is cremation bad for the environment? Well, cremations require large amounts of fossil fuels to power furnaces.

Green burials, however, largely avoid these pitfalls by allowing bodies to decompose in more natural ways. This gives nutrients back to the soil, as opposed to contaminating the ground. For this reason, these types of burials are also referred to as eco-funerals, as they are seen as more ecologically friendly. We wrote a bit about some types of green burial coffins in this post here. Below, we’re looking at some other available options.

Types of green burial alternatives

There are a number of methods when deciding to choose a green burial, some more widespread than others. As such, some green burials cost more than others depending on the method. Below we’ve listed three.

Three circles with three green burial options, from left to right: mushroom suit, aqua cremation, and biodegradable urns
Mushroom suit

This one is exactly as it sounds. The mushroom burial suit is made of organic cotton lined with mushroom spores. When a body is buried in this suit, the specially designed spores eat at the body, turning toxins into helpful enzymes. This way, the suit helps prevent harmful chemicals from getting into the soil and nearby water sources. The company that manufactures the suit, Coeio, is still developing the process. But it got some notoriety after it was revealed that actor Luke Perry was buried in one of their suits in 2019.

How does it compare to a traditional burial? As of now, the suit costs $1,500, which is much cheaper than a standard burial in the US, which can cost $5k - $10k in total. It isn’t absurd to see this as a cost-effective way to honor your loved ones while also being sustainable for the environment.

Aqua cremation (aka alkaline hydrolysis)

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “are cremations bad for the environment?” this next alternative may speak to you. There is a process called “aqua cremation” where a body is placed into a 95% water, 5% alkali solution at high temperatures for a couple of hours. The process breaks down the body, leaving only the cremated remains.

How does it compare to a traditional cremation? For now, aqua cremations aren’t as common, so they tend to be a bit more expensive. The average aqua cremation can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $3,000, depending on the facility. Compare that to the average cremation cost of $1,600. And some facilities state that they emit 1/10th the carbon emissions as a traditional cremation. As the process becomes more popular and equipment more common, we might also see a drop in those prices.

Biodegradable urns

Even if you find a crematorium that mitigates environmental effects, you still have to think about the ashes. You can place them in an urn, but there are green burial alternatives to urns as well. These are called biodegradable urns. Instead of materials like ceramic, stone, glass, or steel, biodegradable urns use things like paper, cardboard, wood fibers or even sand. Why do this? Burials with these urns are easier and they take less of a toll on the ground. And some companies include special soil within the urn that can sprout a new plant, tree, or flower. In this way, your loved one can bring a new life into the world.

How do biodegradable urns compare to classic ones? Cost-wise, biodegradable urns can vary in price depending on the material. The Living Urn, for example, can cost between $129 - $169, while Eco Scattering offers urns anywhere between $50 to $100. Meanwhile, traditional urns can cost anywhere from $70 to $2,250, depending on style and material.

Conclusion

There is a growing list of options for people who want to honor their loved ones, but also be mindful of humanity’s impact on the environment. As technology advances in these areas, eco-funeral options such as mushroom suits, green burial coffins, or biodegradable urns will become more commonplace. We come from the earth, so it’s important to think of ways we can give back. Even in death, we have our parts to play.

The opinions we expressed in this post are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations.
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