Baby Boomers grew up in an era that spawned the environmental revolution. Earth Day started when we were young and recycling became a movement that is still growing and maturing today. So when Baby Boomers start preparing to die, we are going to change the entire funeral industry. We will want an environmentally friendly way of passing on, including a green funeral, a natural burial, and a ceremony that has little impact on the environment.
One of the beginnings of this movement is seen in the increasing use of the cremation process. Just 30 years ago, only 4% of the people were choosing to be cremated. Today, that figure is about 40% and in another 15 years it is projected to reach over 60%. While cremation uses less resources than a traditional funeral and does not tie up the land use for burial purposes, it is not the entire answer.
Traditional funerals are putting more than 1.6 million tons of concrete and 100,000 tons of steel in to the ground each year for caskets and vaults according to the Casket and Funeral Association of America. We are also putting more than 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid in the earth. At the same time, cremation uses enough fossil fuels to drive a car to the moon and back 84 times each year and emits pollutants into the environment like carbon monoxide, mercury, and .2% of the world’s dioxin emissions according to www.mygreengrave.com.
So, what is the solution? Cremation is better than a traditional funeral. You do not have to be buried if you scatter the ashes in your favorite garden or vacation spot. None of the 50 states require the use of embalming fluid. If you do want to have a viewing of the body, refrigeration and dry ice are becoming more used as options for preserving the body. There are non toxic embalming fluids being developed. Alkaline hydrolysis is an option that hospitals have been using for years in the final disposition of bodies used for medical research.
Another option is a green burial in a cemetery. This option does not use embalming fluid. You will use a casket made out of a sustainable material such as bamboo or woven reeds with a biodegradable cloth liner. It is buried with a natural stone for a marker or a tree and uses GPS coordinates for location. You might even get the option of reusing the same grave site in 20 years for the next generation of your family. That is a very creative solution that incorporates the slogan of reduce, reuse, recycle. The landscape is planted with prairie grasses and trees so that you do not have to use the millions of gallons of water, chemicals and fuel to maintain the green grass landscape. With over 7 billion people in the world today, we cannot continue to use the same practices that we have always used.