Table: How Your Funeral Impacts the Environment
By: Team Earth
Aug 15, 2023 | Green Funeral Practice3 min read
The table on this page breaks down the elements of a typical funeral, describing the environmental impact of individual choices.
While some of the negative environmental impacts of traditional funerals are obvious, others are less commonly considered, and the full extent of an individual funeral’s effect is often underestimated.
Chemical embalming involves the use of formaldehyde, which is highly toxic and a known carcinogen. Buried embalming fluids give rise to soil pollution, impacting soil health.
Cornell University’s Mary Woodsen estimates that more than four million gallons of embalming fluid are used in US burials each year.
Heavy wooden caskets are often treated with chemicals and often contain metal and plastic fittings. This makes burial resource intensive and potentially soil polluting.
The same Cornell study estimates that 20 million board feet of hardwoods and 64,500 tons of steel are buried in the US each year.
Caskets are often placed in an outer container, which will typically be made of materials like concrete.
1.6 million tons of concrete are buried in the US each year, according to the study.
Grave markings vary, but often include concrete, metal or plastic elements, adding non-renewable materials to an already resource intensive process and contributing to the estimated figures above.
Traditional burial involves the unsustainable consumption of urban land.
Some cemeteries use pesticides to maintain lawns, reducing biodiversity and potentially leading to soil pollution.
Water consumption is also an issue. At one point, the biggest cemetery in the US was using 293 million gallons of drinkable water each year.
Cremation is a fossil fuel-powered process, which releases CO2 and other emissions.
The average cremation produces 535 lbs of CO2, equivalent to a 600+ mile car journey.
Use of vehicles throughout the funeral process, from transporting the materials used in traditional burial to transporting the body, adds to the emissions involved in traditional processes themselves.
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Funerals don’t need to be environmentally damaging. They can even have a positive impact on the planet, as in the case of human composting.
At Earth, we call our proprietary human composting process ‘soil transformation’. Our process is net carbon neutral. We operate the most advanced human composting facility in the world, which uses 100% renewable energy and provides a serene environment that mirrors the beauty of the process.
Families choose how much soil they would like returned – to scatter or plant – and the remainder is sent to our beautiful conservation sites for land restoration projects. Our soil transformation process therefore not only avoids environmental harm, but actively benefits the planet for years to come.
If this appeals to you, read more on our website and get an instant online quote for our services.