Earth is our most valuable shared heritage, and it is something that we should nurture and protect above all else. Because of the abuse of Earth's resources, the world's diverse and wondrous ecosystems are suffering greatly. Living in the hustle and bustle of the city, it is easy to forget about the beauty of nature, and how the balance in which it hangs is so fragile. We owe so much to our planet; it gives us everything we need to survive. The very least we can do it try our best to keep its wellbeing in mind when we make choices-- both in the present, and for the future.
With the welfare of the Earth in mind, as well as (for some) a more spiritual desire to become one with the earth upon our demise, a number of more eco-friendly burial and alternative funeral practices are flourishing all over the world. Many of our mainstream funerary practices have potentially harmful impacts on the environment, from releasing C02 and mercury into the air, to embalming fluid seeping into our water supply. Luckily, many individuals and companies are developing new ways to deal with dead bodies and impact they have on our environment. Here are are some of the top green funeral trends!
Top Green Funeral Trends
1. Green Burial Council
While the Green Burial Council isn't necessarily a "trend," they certainly have an important influence on the development and certification of green funeral trends. The Green Burial Council, or GBC, is an independent nonprofit organization with the goal of encouraging the development of eco-friendly burial practices that keep the health and wellbeing of the planet in mind. The GBC has developed codified standards for funeral homes and cemeteries that are seeking to offer green options for death-care and burial practices. They have also put in place similar standards for the development of environmentally friendly burial products and supplies, ensuring that when something is advertised as an eco-friendly death-care product or practice, you can be sure that it is based off of its GBC certification!
2. Urban Death Project
Burying human bodies in the ground has been a practice for over 100,000 years. But the idea of composting the body into soil, that is a relatively new green funeral trend. The Urban Death Project is a body composting system that wants to reconnect us with the natural cycles of decomposition and regrowth that we see in the environment. Centered around a conceptual three-story building where bodies and high-carbon materials are stored together, the Urban Death Project's compost-based renewal system creates an environment in which-- during the short time span of three months-- bodies can decompose into a nutrient-rich soil. This soil is then used by the families and communities of the deceased to nourish the gardens, trees, and earth: "In this way, the dead are folded back into the fabric of the city." This is definitely one of our favorite innovations in green funerals to date!
3. Capsula Mundi
If you could be a tree, what kind or tree you would be? What would it be like to grow tall and create oxygen and new life for the creatures and organisms around you? The team at Capsula Mundi use this concept of returning to the Earth and reincorporating ourselves into the cycle of death and life as the core for their unique burial design. The concept is simple: rather than burying the deceased in a traditional coffin and burial vault (which are often constructed out of materials that are harmful to the earth), the body would be placed in an egg-shaped receptacle that is completely biodegradable. Then, rather than placing a tombstone at the burial site, a tree (of your choice) is planted above the body to mark the grave. Though still in the start-up stages of development, Capsula Mundi's unique and environmentally friendly death-care concept definitely make it one of the most exciting new and top green funeral trends to watch!
4. Home Funerals
A home funeral (sometimes referred to as a family-directed funeral or a home-based funeral) gives the family and friends of the deceased the opportunity to directly engage with the after-death care of their loved ones. For many, this process allows for those grieving to engage with their feelings of loss in a healthy environment. By being more involved in the funeral processes and removing the "middle man", you also have more control over the types of materials and practices that are incorporated into the funeral-- this includes greater freedom to opt for environmentally friendly burial and funeral practices! This can mean anything from constructing a biodegradable coffin, or choosing to use a more traditional burial shroud-- the options are really endless. Though home funerals encourage greater involvement of the family and loved ones of the deceased, they still require certain professional guidance. This is where specialists such as Death Midwives come into the picture: individuals who dedicate their lives to helping you plan your home funeral to meet the wishes of the deceased as best as possible. The individualized flexibility of this green funeral trend is definitely one of its most appealing features.
5. Bio Cremation
Bio Cremation (or alkaline hydrolysis) is a relatively new processes that uses water and lye rather than fire to break down the body after death. Traditional cremation practices have been accused of being highly polluting to our Earth's atmosphere, while also requiring a great deal of energy. With Bio Cremation the body of the deceased is placed in a chamber (like the one pictured above), and filled with a 95% water 5% alkali solution, which is then slowly heated. The solution never reaches boiling temperatures, but still gets warm enough to cause the body and its tissues to slowly break down and dissolve. When the process is complete, all that is left is a green-brown liquid and the skeleton (which has become porous and easy to break down). The whole process takes about 3 hours and gives off no emissions, while the liquid bi-product can be used to fertilize lawn or garden spaces (or safely flushed down the drain).
6. Future Cemetery
It is estimated that over half a billion people will die in the next decade. What are we going to do with all those bodies? Our cemeteries are filling up, cremation is not for everyone and the environmental impact of traditional burials is being felt more and more. Enter the Future Cemetery Project. Started by the University of Bath’s Centre For Death and Society, the Future Cemetery began as a simple art project. It soon transformed into an international contest, looking to design the cemetery of the future. The winners were a team from Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, DeathLAB and LATENT Productions. The Future Cemetery would consist of a network of memorial vessels which would transform biomass into these beautiful and renewing light constellations. While still only conceptual, the team has high hopes of bringing the project to fruition.