When a loved one passes you have so many options when it comes to their funeral and how the body will be prepared or passed on. Many of these aren't very "eco friendly", but they are traditional, and sometimes traditional practices need to be respected over practices that benefit the environment.
If you're looking for more sustainable ways to hold your death ceremony and burial (or burial alternative), we want to help.
You have more options than the ones offered to you at the funeral home and you want to be as educated as possible so that you can know which ones are right for you.
Keep reading to learn all about a few sustainable ways that you can send your loved one along to their next journey.
Why Opt for Sustainability?
We're in a different world now than the one that our ancestors inhabited. At the time that many of these traditions started, no one was concerned about how human development was going to impact the physical wellbeing of the earth.
Many cultures and religions have specific things in their scriptures that ask their followers to do no harm. In hindsight, it seems as though the proposed funeral practices would be acceptable given the current situation.
Maybe your traditions aren't based around religion, though. Why make the swap?
The world is going through a crisis and while this is largely attributed to big companies being careless with their manufacturing and distribution methods, there are things that the average person can do to minimize their impact.
One of the lesser-known ways to do this is to choose a green or sustainable burial or cremation.
Overall, there are several methods of doing this. We're going to start with the ceremony itself and then move to the preparation of the body.
The Death Ceremony
A lot of cultures do a large event following the death of a loved one. This varies from culture to culture. Some prefer a "celebration of life" in which mourning is discouraged and it's more acceptable to throw a party.
In the west, we're more likely to have viewings and wakes for our mourning sessions, all dressed in black and most people crying.
There's nothing wrong with any of these, but there's a lot of waste involved in the average gathering, so make some considerations.
If you're having a death ceremony that includes food, use sustainable packaging and eating tools like plates and utensils. No one wants to do all of those dishes, but biodegradable options help to offset the damage.
Also ensure that if you're doing an outdoor event or viewing, or if you're scattering ashes, that this isn't in a place where you can cause harm to the local environment. You should try to leave the earth better than you found it.
Sustainable Options for Your Loved One
This might be for you, in which case simply apply the following to your own preparation for death and last wishes. There are many ways to sustainably send your loved one to rest that can still respect traditions and follow a normal funerary routine.
Let's talk about some of the more earth-friendly ways to go about sending off your loved one.
Green Cremation Options
Standard cremation practices release harmful chemicals into the air. While this seems like the more sustainable choice overall, scientists aren't actually sure whether or not the environmental impact is smaller or larger.
There are green cremation options (though one isn't a traditional "cremation"; we'll explain in a moment).
The first option is more traditional. It still uses flames. The difference comes with the preparation of the body.
Green cremations ensure that there are no chemicals being released that aren't the chemicals pre-present in the body itself. The body is wrapped in cotton instead of plastic, and all plastics are removed from the body before the burning begins.
While the smoke that's released might not be great for the environment, it takes out a lot of the damage that's done from the extra harmful chemicals that can damage the surroundings. It also makes ashes less dangerous to spread if this was a concern.
Water cremation is also an option. Water and an alkali solution are used to break the body down naturally until it's only bones. The bones are returned to the next of kin in a similar form as ashes. This is the most sustainable method of cremation. You can read more now if you're interested in green cremation.
If the burial itself is important to you, that's also an option. Green burials take many of the chemicals and harmful products out of the burial while still allowing the viewing and overall routine of the burial to remain the same.
There are ways to make the burial "just a bit" green, as well as ways to really commit to the greenery.
Sometimes people choose to not have bodies embalmed. Embalming fluid is dangerous to the environment as it's poisonous. This means that viewing either won't be an option or it will need to be done quickly.
Some people also choose to not use a casket. This might sound odd, but it also takes a lot of the cost out of the burial. Using a cotton shroud can be a nice and environmentally-friendly way to send your loved one off without damaging the environment as much as a coffin would.
Donating a Body
Donating a body is one of the best things that you can do for the world and the environment.
The body can be used for several things. You can donate organs and then have a more traditional burial, or you can choose to donate the body to science. You might never get to know exactly what it was used for, but you can be sure that it was used with intention.
Sometimes scientists learn important things about health, medicine, and the overall workings of the body from these donations alone. It's also free.
Send Your Loved One off While Staying Green
Whether you're planning for yourself or the death ceremony of the loved one, consider how your choices are going to impact the environment. You can make the last step of your loved one's carbon footprint just a bit smaller by choosing more sustainable options.
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