To Bury or Blossom?

Disclaimer: Quite a morbid topic for the blog today.

We are all going to die; whether you have accepted that reality or not, it will happen. Therefore, your body must go somewhere. For hundreds of years bodies have been embalmed and placed within coffins and marked with heavy tombstones. However, this practice has proved to be unsustainable. Cemeteries have recently been referred to as “toxic landfills” and a “grave situation” (punny). Therefore, they have scientists and designers seeking other alternatives.

“In 2003 Mary Woodsen reported that we are turning cemeteries into toxic landfills by burying 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid—including formaldehyde; 180,544,000 pounds of steel; 5,400,000 pounds of copper and bronze; and 30 million board feet of hardwoods every year. We are polluting the living through our death and leaving behind a toxic legacy.”

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While talking with my coworker at work this week, we got on the topic of death. She mentioned that her husband wants to be made into fireworks and shot off at the fourth of July. Which, after some research, I found was totally possible. Heavenly Stars Fireworks , a UK based company, prides itself in creating a celebration life and a wonderful tribute to your loved one. There is even a YouTube video on their home page, highlighting one family’s experience with the fireworks.

My point is that through this conversation, I was reminded of our present burial practices & became frightened at how unsustainable they are. A standard grave size is 2.5 feet wide by 8 feet long. On average 55.3 million people die each year. 

Below I highlight some alternative options of burial. In the next few decades or sooner, I see these becoming mainstream. Click the links below to visit each website & learn more.

Tree: “Capsula Mundi is a cultural and broad-based project, which envisions a different approach to the way we think about death. It’s an egg-shaped pod, an ancient and perfect form, made of biodegradable material, where our departed loved ones are placed for burial. Ashes will be held in small Capsulas while bodies will be laid down in a fetal position in larger pods. The pod will then be buried as a seed in the earth. A tree, chosen in life by the deceased, will be planted on top of it and serve as a memorial for the departed and as a legacy for posterity and the future of our planet. Family and friends will continue to care for the tree as it grows. Cemeteries will acquire a new look and, instead of the cold grey landscape we see today, they will grow into vibrant woodlands.”

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The designers with the Capsula Mundi

Eternal Reef: “An Eternal Reef is a designed reef made of environmentally-safe cast concrete that is used to create new marine habitats for fish and other forms of sea life. Eternal Reefs takes the cremated remains or “cremains” of an individual and incorporates them into an environmentally-safe cement mixture designed to create artificial reef formations. The Eternal Reefs are then placed in the permitted ocean location selected by the individual, friend or family member.”

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Fireworks: “Heavenly Stars offers mourners a choice of fireworks to have cremated ashes packed inside.There is the “Celebration of Life”, which soars to 100ft and produces two minutes’ worth of bangs and flashes, and the quieter “Eternal Stardust”, which emits gold and silver bursts of light. Families can even buy a frame with giant letters spelling a farewell message, which can be lit at the same time as the firework and will burn and sparkle throughout the display.”

Fireworks are under the category of Cremation. Cremation is another sustainable form of decomposing of a dead body. It does not take up any land space; however, it requires a substantial amount of energy. “In fact, a cremator uses about 285 kWh of gas per cremation – roughly the same domestic energy demands as a single person for an entire month.” Cremation is therefore preferred over burial because it does not have need for embalming, coffins, or tombstones.

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Biodegradable Coffin: This is also referred to as natural burial. The idea behind this type of burial is that bodies will decompose naturally; therefore, they do not go through the embalming process. The casket below is made of grasses. Another option would be the coffin made of recycled paper.

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Willow, Bamboo, and Seagrass Coffin

 

Watch A Will For the Woods! Documentary about green burial. 2 minute trailer is below.

“Boldly facing his mortality, Clark and his partner Jane have become passionate about green burial, compelled by both the environmental benefits and the idea that one can remain within the cycle of life, rather than being cut off from it. The spirited pair have inspired a compassionate local cemeterian, and together they aim to use green burial to save a North Carolina woods from being clear-cut.”

 

 

 

Make things Happen!

Abby

 

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2 thoughts on “To Bury or Blossom?

  1. I just had to comment seeing as how funeral homes and embalming have been apart of my life for 15+ years. This sort of stuff fascinates me.

    The hilarious part of the embalming process is that…it’s not necessary at all. Freezing a body will limit decomposition long enough for burial (in most cases). Even though the funeral business keeps a roof over my head, I always wanted a green burial myself—wrap me in something biodegradable and toss me into the ground!

    Do we think cremation is a more “greener” option than the standard casket burial? You do use gas to ignite the jets in the crematorium…but most families opt to sprinkle their loved ones instead of burying them in urns.

    One last note: I’m not sure where you got your statistic from but most funeral homes do not use an embalming fluid with formaldehyde because it was proven to be a carcinogenic. Of course, I’m not saying all the other chemicals in embalming fluid doesn’t hurt the environment.

    Speaking of the environment (last tid bit I swear)…guess where the drained blood goes during the embalming process? Right down a standard drain and into the water supply. Apparently, water is so finely treated that this doesn’t matter…but it still makes me cringe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! You have a really interesting perspective since you’ve dealt with this topic for most of your life – thanks for the comment! I got my statistic from this website… https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/iage/201304/cemeteries-toxic-landfills
      However, this NYtimes article says that some still use formaldehyde despite the risk. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/21/business/despite-cancer-risk-embalmers-stay-with-formaldehyde.html
      Honestly, it is good to hear that most don’t use it though because carcinogens are dangerous! The removal of using formaldehyde is at least one step towards being better for the embalmers & environment.

      Like

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