Aside from being one of man's greatest mysteries and Notorious B.I.G.'s second album, Life After Death is a concept environmentalists consider when it comes to the funeral process. Both Tommy Lee and Ludacris threw music-style green funerals on Battleground Earth. So how can we memorialize loved ones in a way that supports the ecosystem? Can we have a planet-positive process to say "good-bye?" More and more, eco-conscious people are considering all the ways we impact the world. Even in death our remains can become a gift to the environment.
The traditional burial process is not only a significant financial burden, but also comes with a substantial cost to the environment. While there are a number of environmental impacts resulting from funeral practices, here are two of the most outstanding ones. First, millions of trees each year are cut to provide coffins for the dearly departed. As we already know, trees are an important part of the process to transform carbon dioxide into oxygen. Second, toxic chemicals like formaldehyde are used in the embalming process. Ultimately the chemicals make their way into our ground water system. These pollutants can have costly environmental consequences.
Fortunately, there are ways to develop your own environmentally friendly funeral. Start with researching coffins which are biodegradable. There are a variety of non-traditional options including bamboo and jute burial containers which decompose and provide nourishment for soil. Don't stop your research once you've found a coffin. Be sure to talk to your mortuary director about the embalming process. Less toxic chemicals are now being used to preserve bodies, but you'll need to seek out those who provide the alternative process.
An eco-conscious funeral can be about more than just investigating ways not to harm the environment; it can really be about giving back. Natural mortuary processes don't use chemical preservatives at all. Bodies are placed in biodegradable materials and interred in non-traditional resting places. Natural burial cemeteries plant native vegetation over each person's gravesite. The protected space provides a sanctuary for plant and animal life as well as the opportunity for stewards of the environment to continue giving beyond the grave.
If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the process or you are not able to access alternative options in your community, here's a list of quick and easy ways to give a greener memorial.
- Use recycled paper for programs.
- Condense the number of services and memorials.
- Plant a tree in honor of the deceased.
- Use potted plants instead of cut flowers.
- Carpool to services.
This post was inspired by Battleground Earth. Check it out here.