One of the most common reasons to choose cremation over burial is because of the reputed environmental benefit. In an age when all of us are looking for ways to reduce our impact on the environment, cremation provides a quick and easy solution. Cheaper than a traditional funeral and increasingly more accepted in traditional funeral planning circles, cremation is fast becoming the preferred choice for today’s funeral consumers.
However, for all the talk of green funerals and the environmental benefits of cremation, few people have any real, hard data to look at when making a choice. Although accurate, up-to-date figures are difficult to come by, here is an insider’s look at what kinds of strain cremation and burial put on our planet.
Burial and the Environment
When you bury a body, you aren’t just putting human remains into the ground. Embalming fluid, the hardwoods or metal for the casket, and vault materials are just a few of the items being taken from and put into the earth.
Every year in the United States we bury an average of:
- 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid
- 30 million board feet of hardwoods
- 180,544,000 pounds of steel
- 5,400,000 pounds of copper and bronze
These figures don’t include the granite and other stones used to craft headstones and burial markers, nor do they reflect the amount of land needed to contain all the burial plots of those opting for burial.
Is Cremation a Better Choice?
Contrary to popular belief, cremation isn’t a perfect solution, and it does come with some environmental ramifications of its own. The amount of energy required to cremate one body is about the same as driving 4,800 miles. The amount of greenhouse gas created by the cremation is equal to 110 pounds (or 27 pounds of coal being burned into the air).
Cremations are also said to contribute to higher rates of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, mercury, hydrogen fluoride (HF), hydrogen chloride (HCl), NMVOCs, and other heavy metals in the air. In fact, the UN estimates that crematoriums contribute up to 0.2% of the annual global emission.
Which Method is Best?
There is no perfect way to dispose of a body. No matter what type of funeral you choose, there will be an impact on the environment and a use of resources involved. You can lessen the damages on the earth by opting for eco-friendly woods, natural burials, direct burials, and direct cremations. You can also look into carbon neutral cremations, skip the funeral flowers, and even hold your funeral via webcam.