Few people want to plan for or think about their funeral or those of their loved ones. But death is a reality that everyone faces, and there are a growing number of people that recognize that the traditional methods used to lay someone to rest are too costly, both financially and for the environment. Below is a comparison between natural and traditional burials.
A traditional funeral and burial consist of embalming, the creation, and selection of a coffin and flowers, choosing a burial plot, and fabricating a headstone. This process is extremely expensive, so much so that the typical funeral in the United States costs more than the average American earns in one or two months.
The resources used by the traditional funeral industry are also staggering. According to research and studies undertaken on the subject, this industry consumes thirty million wood boards, 2 million concrete tons, and over 750,000 gallons worth of embalming fluid every year, as well as ninety thousand steel tons. When you consider the fact that embalming fluid contains formaldehyde which is extremely toxic, it is understandable why so many people are looking for an alternative.
While cremation is the most cost-effective and space-saving option and does not consume the tremendous materials needed for traditional burials, it is not without its problems. Despite the regulations enacted around the world to minimize its environmental impact, cremation still causes a lot of damage.
When a body is burned, toxins will be released. They get into the surrounding air and ultimately contribute to a staggering amount of global pollution from carbon dioxide. These toxins are also a threat to cremation workers themselves. Another disadvantage of cremation is the excess energy needed to do it.
In a typical crematorium, high levels of power are required to obtain the temperatures necessary to burn and break down the body. In terms of fuel, a single cremation on average requires the same amount needed to provide electrical power to a home for one month.
As more people become aware of the cost and hazards involved with traditional burials and cremation, there is a growing interest in natural burials. These are simple funeral arrangements where the body will be laid to rest without the embalming process. In some green burials, coffins are not used at all, and if they are, they will be made from biodegradable materials such as pine.
The purpose of natural burials is to minimize the environmental damage caused by classical burials while conserving resources that can be applied to other uses. Once laid to rest the body will break down and return to the soil in the manner intended by nature.
While some consider natural burials to be new, they aren’t. In actuality, traditional burial with its embalming process and a long-lasting casket is a recent phenomenon that has existed for the last century or so. Further back in time, natural burials were the standard around the world, as the technology for embalming didn’t exist, with an exception being the mummies of ancient Egypt, but even then, formaldehyde wasn’t used and mummification was reserved mostly for royalty and the nobility.