Is This Unusual Green Burial Option Making a Comeback?

By Sami Grover, TreeHugger

From composting your corpse to a woodland burial, we’ve seen plenty of ways to reduce the footprint of your final resting place.

But one practice has always struck me as particularly green: sky burial.

Practiced by Zoroastrians, who believe that cremation or traditional burial pollutes the earth, sky burial is a method of disposal that involves exposing a body to the hot sun where it will be devoured by vultures and other birds of prey.

But as reported on NPR, it turns out that the Parsi community in and around Mumbai, India has been experiencing difficulties with sky burial. A sudden crash in vulture populations, caused by poisoning from livestock medications, and an increasingly urban population that doesn’t necessarily like to see dead bodies being eaten by birds, have meant that the Parsi have had to explore alternatives because bodies were taking too long to decompose/be devoured.

Interestingly, some groups introduced solar concentrators, which used the heat of the sun to dehydrate bodies and thus reduce odor and hygiene issues. But these concentrators were expensive, next to useless in monsoon season, and the heat from them actually discouraged other scavengers like crows from approaching the bodies during the day.

It turns out that the most efficient replacement for vultures might just be vultures. And moves are finally underway to see them deployed:

The success of the program has led to a new proposal to start a vulture sanctuary in Doongerwadi. And that could make life easier for the Parsis and their neighbors, says Homi Khusrokhan, president of the Bombay Natural History Society.

“For years, Parsis have been trying to manage without vultures,” Khusrokhan says. “But obviously, if the vultures could be brought back, [the Parsis] would be delighted. And it’s always been an impossible task, so this is the first time it’s really become feasible to do.”

I guess this is just one more reminder that while renewable energy technologies are cool, sometimes we are better off letting nature do what it does best and enjoying her services.

Photo Credit: Yann (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons



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Warren Webber
Warren Webberabout a year ago

Live long and prosper

Keith F.

I would think that the typical American diet would kill most of the vultures that ate them... That also would freak a lot of people out to see that happening.

Elaya Raja
Elaya Raja3 years ago

Good. Thank you.

John B.
John B.3 years ago

If this were an option here in the US I would seriously consider it.

Phillipa W.
Phillipa W.3 years ago

I like it, but I'm a little concerned for the vultures and how healthy in general people are as food sources.

Donna B.
Donna B.3 years ago

Oh wow. This sounds like night-mare material. Don't think this would ever be excepted here in the U.S. But whatever someone wants. It's up to them.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

thanks for sharing

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

The obscene Funeral Industry, of course, DOES fetishize dead bodies, it makes a pile off of them. Also gets laws passed PROTECTING the industry. Caskets are obscene and unnecessary.

There is NO REASON WHY, at Funerals, the Family and Mourners couldn't have SOME SYMBOLIC REPRESENTATION of the deceased. Some other cultures have this. It could easily become accepted. Most funerals are "closed casket" anyway. You could have a photograph of the deceased; or a sculptor or artist could make a picture or effigy. You could have some item or items closely associated with the deceased. Songs or stories might "represent" the person. Or an empty chair, a garland of flowers, a mandala, a very temporary sand painting, something poignantly evocative. The "presence" of the deceased isn't there anyway!!!!!

Marie W.
Marie W.3 years ago

Some Native Americans used this method. Not opposed but are their any vultures left?

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

Well, embalming bodies is certainly NOT green.
There is nothing wrong with "pushing up daisies" and being buried and DECOMPOSING like we are supposed to, RECYCLING the elements in our bodies. We are SUPPOSED to "give back". The old "plain pine box" which also decomposed, was ok too.
We used to "feed worms" and other little critters, bacteria and such. Enrich the soil.

Some Native American tribes exposed bodies in trees or on high places also, to be EATEN by birds. They might later gather just the bones, and bury them in earth.
While such practices might not fit in with "modern life", I think that there ARE "green alternatives" being explored. I have no problem with BEING EATEN after I am dead. I DO have a problem with being embalmed with POISONOUS CHEMICALS. Even Cremation is not as Green as there is smoke, etc. Why fetishize dead bodies? Of course, I am DONATING MY ORGANS, EYES, ETC. and I hope everybody else remembers to do that, also!