Like many things in our rapidly changing and increasingly denser world, traditional burial methods have become a problem for many countries and especially for environmental advocates. A lack of adequate space, fears of toxic chemicals potentially polluting the ground, and extreme numbers of materials used to produce coffins have left a lot of people searching for cheaper, more sustainable ways to honour their passed loved ones.
“Green” cemeteries have caught on in popularity in recent years, with more than 40 having sprung up in the United States (where somewhere close to one million tons of steel is used per year on caskets alone). These cemeteries offer a completely biodegradable casket made from woven-willow, and little more than a simple hole in the ground. Foregoing the expensive traditional methods of grave marking, lowering the casket, and embalming is preferred by many all around the world for the money it saves and the lack of harsh chemicals that the embalming process employs. These methods are, by comparison, so much easier and friendlier to the earth, that they can even be purchased in advance as “coffin kits” to be assembled at home when the time comes.
Burials At Sea
Another form of unusual, but eco-friendly, burials that has started to catch on is the burial at sea. This is of course nothing new to human history with a long stretch of sailors and seamen having been buried in the ocean while offshore, but these new techniques bring something different than was ever available in the past. Regulations in New England call for intact bodies to be taken at least 25 miles out and ashes to be scattered at least three miles out. But for those that want to really feel that they have been as green as possible, “reef balls” is a technique that makes the remains a veritable part of the ocean’s eco-system.
A company called Eternal Reefs uses environmentally friendly concrete to create a habitat for sea life with the ashes of a loved one mixed into the foundation. These “reef balls” are about the size of a football, and then attached to a reef that will be installed off of the east coast in the United States. Whole families can be put other on a reef, including pets, and rest at peace knowing that their remains have played a part in creating a safe, friendly environment for fish and other sea life that have been diminishing in recent years.
Burials That Are Out of this World
Certainly the most extreme option for unusual and eco-friendly burials is by sending loved ones to space. Remains can even be taken on a mission to the moon and left there to look out on the whole world for all eternity. Companies currently offering this service attach multiple remains to missions that will be happening already, such as the launch of a satellite, once the rocket leaves the Earth’s atmosphere, a small charge launches ashes out among the stars—an incredible, far away resting place. At this time, these processes are cost prohibitive to many, but could continue to develop in the coming years.