So the past few months, my family has sadly said goodbye to more than our fair share of loved ones. In addition to the technicalities of the deaths, the papers, the lawyers, the cleaning up after a life, there is the detail of how to best honor the dead, and what to do with the body left behind.
Now, option one for many people is the traditional burial with headstone. (Disclaimer: I absolutely love old cemeteries, they are such wonderful peaceful, magical places to me.) Sadly, many modern cemeteries lack the charm of the old ones, an unescapable reality in a world where we’re running out of room for the living.
That said, a little research on traditional burials led me to these shocking facts:
Every year in US cemeteries, along with our loved ones we bury:
* 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid
* 90,272 tons of steel (caskets)
* 2,700 tons of copper and bronze (caskets)
* 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete (vaults)
* 14,000 tons of steel (vaults)
* 30-plus million board feet of hardwoods (much tropical; caskets)
Source: Mary Woodsen, Greensprings Natural Cemetery FAQ, March, 2007;
I was pretty horrified by those numbers and immediately decided cremation MUST be the better choice. Except it might not be THAT much better. There’s the energy used to make sure the body is completely burned, then there are all the pollutant-releasing synthetics burned in the process, from clothing to medical implants to the mercury fillings in our teeth. While there are facilities with new and improved energy conservation and filtration systems, for the most part the industry is unregulated on those terms. In other words, you might have to do a bit of shopping around for the best facility to handle this type of job.
Then I saw this, which is what prompted this rainy-day post.
Be A Tree
In the United Kingdom, a compelling new consumer movement is underway. Natural burial grounds—where people are buried in biodegradable containers, without embalming fluid or synthetics, and returned to the earth to compost into soil nutrients with a forest of trees marking the spot—are springing up across this island nation.
How cool is that? I kind of really like the idea of becoming a tree. Ent, Anyone??