Cremation–a TRULY green option?

Living here in Austin, the call (demand?) to live green is all around.  We don’t get plastic bags at the grocery (or department stores) any longer–reusables are where it’s at.  Recycling is widespread, encouraged, even demanded, but still not done enough.  Our car use, while still ridiculously high, is a constant source of discussion and attempted modification, to cut down on emissions. Everywhere you look, natural/green/organic/earth-friendly is the trend, and folks are doing what they can to get onboard (or maybe sometimes, being dragged onboard?!)

In much the same vein, nationwide, traditional burial is declining, and cremation is skyrocketing in popularity.  After all, no toxic embalming fluid, no expensive, needy grass lawns to lie under, no exotic wood and over-shellacked casket permanently in the earth–a much greener choice, better for the earth, right?   Combine this lack of fuss, the minimal processing of the body, and the substantially lower cost of cremation, and it seems to be a slam dunk, better all around.

But witness, this chart.

(And although its data is UK focussed, the similarities in our burial practices make it pretty applicable to US practice as well)


This information, from UK natural burial site and advocate–makes it clear:  there are better, greener ways, secret option C.

Cremation generates emissions, requires lots of energy to accomplish, and can also unleash other pollutants (mercury, in particular) into the air.  While it refrains from injecting other toxins deep into the ground, and doesn’t necessarily require high-maintenence spaces forever, there are still substantial ecological costs to the low dollar cost of cremation.

If all you want is a simple, relatively green, reasonably-priced disposal method, cremation certainly fits the bill.

But if you’re truly looking to go natural and honor the earth, why not consider recycling yourself (and the valuable energy and nutrients that were loaned to you) directly back into the soil?

(As an aside:  you do realize that cremation burns up all the yummy goodness that you are, right?  That whole romantic ideal of “oh, plant a tree on top of my ashes so I can nurture it and you can be reminded of me..”–unless you’re planting a tree that loves alkaline soil, your ashes really won’t do a doggoned for that tree, because you already disposed of all the good stuff in the fire!)

Check out the good news in that Natural Burial column in the chart up there:

  • direct contact with soil for nutrient transfer
  • perfect depth for natural decomposition
  • no artificial anything getting in the way.

You want to be green? Looking to grow some lovely leaves? Done with those minerals and vitamins?

Natural burial all the way.


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