5 Reasons Why Burying Dead People Is Bad for the Environment

Forget black at a funeral Ė itís time to start thinking green. Death is inevitable, but we arenít obligated to bury our loved ones underground just because thatís the way itís always been done, particularly when these rituals arenít environmentally friendly. While it may be hard to convince people to abandon this traditional approach to funerals, perhaps theyíll better understand the reasoning when they see the kind of ecologically damage burials are responsible for:

1. Spreading Toxins

Embalming is a nice way to preserve a body for viewing during a funeral, but what happens to all of those chemicals afterwards? They get buried underground. Embalming fluids is made of toxins and other cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde, methanol, glycerin and phenol, none of which you would intentionally want to put into the ground.

With over 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde entering the ground via burials in the U.S. each year, thatís a lot of gross material that can slowly poison not only the animals and plants in the area, but also nearby water supplies.

2. Deforestation

Money doesnít grow on trees, but caskets essentially do. Each year, 4 million acres of trees are chopped down specifically to construct coffins. Itís a shame that not only does a person have to die before a funeral is held, but countless trees also have to meet their demises as well. On 10 acres of your average cemetery, there is enough wood underground to build 40 houses.

3. Cemeteries Need Too Much Water

Those lush lawns you see at most cemeteries are not accidental Ė groundskeepers use a lot of water to keep†the grass nice and green. While the lawns help keep an otherwise depressing place looking beautiful, all that water is a nightmare from a conservation standpoint.

In California, the recent drought has forced cemeteries to re-examine their business processes. Some of the larger cemeteries spend upwards of $100,000 during summer months just to keep their grounds green!

4. Flowers Left on Graves Have a Sad History

While itís a nice gesture to leave flowers in remembrance for a loved one at his or her grave, itís not necessarily an ecologically responsible one. The problems go well beyond just killing flowers Ė most flowers used in U.S. funerals were actually grown in South America facilities with the aid of excessive amounts of pesticides. These pesticides escape into the water and air and cause health effects for nearby animals Ė not to mention for the workers who grow and pick the flowers.

5. Space

When you think of finite resources on earth, one important resources that often gets overlooked is pure space. The planet only has so much land available, and with a booming population, thereís only so much space.

As the baby boomer ages, the U.S. is currently facing a cemetery crisis: Either we need to devote more space to cemeteries or reject the traditional approach to burials. While itís nice to honor the dead with space of their own, itís probably not sustainable to continue allowing everyone to have their own plot of land.

The good news is that there are reasonable alternatives to traditional burial. Progressive funeral homes like Undertaking LA are starting to offer environmentally conscious funeral options. Itís all part of the greater green burial movement, with one of the more popular new ideas being to put deceased loves own in biodegradable urns†that eventually sprout into trees.

If youíre opposed to pesticides, chopping down trees and wasting water while youíre alive, why would you want to inadvertently support those things once youíre dead? Start planning now so you can be a good environmentalist even after youíve passed on.

Photo Credit: Loony Bat

123 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah H1 years ago

interesting

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Nelson Petrie
Nelson Petrie2 years ago

Burying the dead is Jewish, Christian and Muslim tradition. While a few Christians are accepting alternative forms of burial, the Jews and the Muslims are fanatically tradition- minded where burying is concerned and will have it no other way. While electric crematoriums seems a likely solution, they too release polluting gases from their chimney. Hindus cremate the dead by the banks of 'Holy' rivers and use tons of wood & butter in the process, theirs is just as environmentally unfriendly if not more so. Some are even trying 'pod' burial with a plant over the body curved in a pod shape which is expected to grow to a large tree. The proposal sounds quite feasible but has not caught on as yet.

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Nelson Petrie
Nelson Petrie2 years ago

Burying the dead is Jewish, Christian and Muslim tradition. While a few Christians are accepting alternative forms of burial, the Jews and the Muslims are fanatically tradition- minded where burying is concerned and will have it no other way. While electric crematoriums seems a likely solution, they too release polluting gases from their chimney. Hindus cremate the dead by the banks of 'Holy' rivers and use tons of wood & butter in the process, theirs is just as environmentally unfriendly if not more so. Some are even trying 'pod' burial with a plant over the body curved in a pod shape which is expected to grow to a large tree. The proposal sounds quite feasible but has not caught on as yet.

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Lorraine Andersen

Like Mark F. not sure what the solution to this one is.

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thanks

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thanks

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Perry H.
Perry H2 years ago

Another option, besides burial and cremation:
http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-6-november-december/green-life/hey-mr-green-alkaline-hydrolysis-more-ecofriendly

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Beatriz Blauth
Beatriz Blauth2 years ago

I agree with this article.

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Thomas M.
Thomas M2 years ago

Almost everything we do in this situation is bad, but the best alternative for me is cremation. Perhaps another is to go sit on hill and die and return to the earth, but if everyone did that we would spread disease, etc., especially in heavily populated areas. It is a waste of space to be buried in a cemetery.

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