In an era where care for the planet and respect for the environment are finally grabbing headlines and political agendas, it’s no wonder people are beginning to make greener choices when it comes to dying.
These are more environmentally friendly processes than traditional burials or cremations.
According to the Natural Death Center in the UK, a single cremation uses nearly as much gas and electricity as an 800-kilometer road trip and emits more than 100 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Believe it or not, traditional burial is even more polluting. Associated materials use more than 100,000 tons of steel and 1.5 million tons of concrete each year, according to Bloomberg. To this must be added the number of trees felled for the elaboration of coffins, which the media estimates around 77,000 trees per year (only in the United States).
And it doesn’t end there, many believe that there is a risk that the liquid used to embalm the bodies, carcinogenic, will leak later, contaminating the land and water.
For this reason, it is not surprising that sheltered by the new generations who are increasingly aware of respect for nature, proposals have emerged that propose more ecological options on what to do with our bodies once they are dead.
These range from ecological burials in which all kinds of polluting elements are discarded, to burials in the sea or commitments to convert our corpses into compost to feed the earth.
The truth is that in many cases it is for the time being mere projects that hope that over time the law will be on their side.
In this sense, in the United States, our regulation on mortuary health still places us far from these ecological practices when disposing of our deceased. As an option to try to reduce our as much as possible our footprint when we die, the RestGreen website offers coffins made in recycled cardboard, claiming to be the only approved company in our country.
Below we collect some ecological options for your body after death that are being carried out in other countries.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, a green burial means that “the body is buried, without embalming, in a natural environment, where any cover or casket used must be biodegradable, non-toxic and sustainable material. Traditional tombstones are not allowed. Instead Flat, rocks, plants, or trees can serve as grave markers.”
Since there is no concrete vault to house the corpse, the hole must be dug much shallower than necessary so that the bodies are not perceived or “attacked” by animals, but deep enough so that the aerobic bacteria responsible for the corpse can act on it. of the decomposition process.
The goal of green burials is, not surprisingly, to reduce the environmental damage caused by both traditional burial and cremation.
Although at the moment this practice is very restricted in Europe due to the laws on the treatment of corpses, it is beginning to be more frequent in areas such as the United States or Canada.
According to a study carried out in 2015 by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council, up to 64% of those over 40 years of age already considered the possibility of an ecological burial.
Cremation with water, aquamation, or alkaline hydrolysis is a process by which the body dissolves under the action of alkaline waters and a temperature between 150 and 170. The process takes about two hours and allows the decomposition of the tissues and the degradation of the bones that will later be transformed into ashes.
Although it is a process that is far from being ecological, some sources put the reduction in the carbon footprint that aquamation allows at more than 75%, also using one-eighth of the amount of energy required in the usual cremation, according to collects the Ecofuneral website.
In the United States, currently, around 15 states already allow cremation by water.
The American company Eternal Reefs claims to offer an option whereby our ashes will help generate new marine habitats.
To do this, the company creates a structure made of ecologically safe concrete together with the ashes of the deceased. These are later used to generate “artificial reef formations”, according to the website itself.
The reefs with the ashes of the deceased are later located in permitted spaces of the ocean, generally destined for fishing and diving. These are public spaces that can be accessed by anyone.
According to the company itself, there are currently some 1,800 of its reefs with ash located on the coasts of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia.
In the United States, New England Burials at Sea offers what it calls “ocean-friendly” sea burials.
It is about literally throwing the corpse into the sea. For this, the body of the deceased is released from the traditional prison. Instead, they incorporate a more “economical, respectful and safe alternative to the environment”.
The shroud of the corpse uses untreated natural fiber material as well as nickel-plated chrome hardware, which they ensure is a biodegradable and ocean-friendly burial. The shroud also incorporates cannonballs to make it easier for the body to sink.
The company currently offers marine burials on both the West and East coasts of the United States.
An ecological way to get rid of our dead bodies would be to use them for composting and thus serve as organic fertilizer for nature.
This is the plan pursued by Recompose, Katrina Spade’s project that seeks to transform our bodies into the earth naturally and ecologically.
To achieve this, the process is based on a modular and reusable container in which organic reduction is accelerated. The bodies are covered with wood chips and are aerated, which favors the action of natural microbes and the necessary bacteria. The process takes 30 days after which the body is completely transformed into soil that can later be used as compost.
According to Recompose, the process is capable of reducing one metric ton of carbon per person.
The Coco company has created a funerary suit designed to facilitate the degradation of the corpse ecologically.
It is designed with biodegradable materials, does not use polluting chemical products, and favors the natural integration of the body with the earth.
The secret to the latter is that the suit is coated with spores from a class of fungi that help degrade the corpse by consuming dead tissue.
As its creator, Jae Rhim Lee, tells in a TED talk, the human body incorporates toxins that can be returned to the atmosphere during cremation processes and other traditional ways of eliminating them when it is dead. In contrast, the fungi in the funeral suit designed by Rhim Lee absorb such toxins, preventing their contamination of the environment.
The Italian project Capula Mundi sells biodegradable containers in which to place the ashes of the deceased, turning them into nutrients for a tree.
The egg-shaped capsules are made from biodegradable materials and seasonal plants. The ashes are placed in them and then buried. On these, a tree or seeds are planted that will later give a plant.
Created by designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel, the objective of the project is to be able to generate green cemeteries, contributing to the reduction of wood involved in discarding traditional coffins while generating plants.
Although at the moment only containers for ashes are marketed, the objective pursued by Capsula Mundi is to be able to develop capsules capable of housing a body in the fetal position. Although at the moment the Italian legislation does not allow it.
Leading a sustainable lifestyle means wholeheartedly embracing respect for the environment and making a positive impact for people and the planet.Click to read on