Affordable and natural alternatives to traditional, overpriced, and monopolized burial and cremation caskets do exist

Karen Madej

Humans, in general, don't want to think about dying. We leave our funeral arrangements to the last minute or for our families and friends to deal with when we die. Some organized people, of course, plan way ahead. By acting sooner rather than later, we can even lock in a lower price.

As Ben Franklin once quipped, death is one of the only certainties in life. And with that certainty comes an endless supply of customers. Michael Waters

The casket trade monopoly of two companies, Batesville (Hildenbrand) and Matthews, owns 82% of the coffin makers business in the US. Death in itself is a $20 billion a year industry. Some estimate the mark up on a casket is between 300-500%. For the crazy rich, they can buy a $45,000 casket! A Costco casket will set you back $800, but a similar one from Batesville ... $4,890.

The demand for burials started dying off in 2014 when cremation became the top preference. Hildenbrand owns 47% of the market and Matthews 35%. Both companies adapted to the decline in traditional burials and survived.

The worst news about traditional and cheap burials and cremations is wooden caskets that use 4 million acres of forest per year. That's a low average based on 100 mature trees per acre, accounting for 400 million trees chopped down per year for coffins in the US alone.

Traditional funerals in Seattle cost on average $7,029 in City Seattle-Bellevue-Everett. A basic Washington cremation starts at $595. The ashes are delivered in rigid and strong textured black polypropylene, a recyclable plastic that often goes to a landfill.

Fossil fuels play a major part in North American cremations, the equivalent of driving halfway to the sun or 46.25 million miles every year.

The facts of a traditional service and burial may cause you to consider alternatives if you want to reduce your carbon footprint. The choice of investing in climate action will mean your body saves a metric ton of carbon dioxide.

That’s equivalent to the CO2 emissions of 1,102 pounds of coal, driving 2,481 miles, or over 40 cylinders of propane. Recompose

In the UK, we bury our bodies six feet deep and up to four bodies in a private grave; this will have to change as land for burying our remains becomes harder to find. The City of London Cemetery decided to dig graves deeper to fit an extra body in each one.

The graves must be 75-years-old to be considered. The cemetery administrators post notices on the top of headstones and also in adverts. If someone objects, the grave is not extended.

Interestingly, The Conversation reveals bodies in the UK do not have to be embalmed, and we can choose to be buried naturally in woodlands or at sea. The corpse must be decently covered but doesn't have to have a coffin, meaning the deceased or their family could select a shroud, cardboard, or wicker box.

Only if a body has to be repatriated or moved between countries does it need to be embalmed. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Funeral Rule states:

  • Outer burial containers are not required by state law anywhere in the US, but many cemeteries require them to prevent the grave from caving in.
  • No state or local law requires the use of a casket for cremation. A funeral home that offers cremations must tell you that alternative containers are available and must make them available. They might be made of unfinished wood, pressed wood, fiberboard, or cardboard.
  • In Washington, bodies must be buried at established cemeteries. Embalming is not required; refrigeration can be used until the time of burial or cremation. A casket is also not required for burial or cremation.

You can find the burial laws for your state here.

Green death

Both the UK and the US have Resomation, a natural water cremation. For folks who fear the fire element of the process, they can opt for a sustainable choice.

CANA (Cremation Association of North America) altered its “Model Law” for cremation given to US states as a guidance document which then allowed for water cremation.

Recompose, Seattle offers their Precompose one-time payment of $5,500 on a monthly payment basis. Customers can pay from $25 to $500 per month. They guarantee a full refund in the first 30 days or 90% afterward. You can cancel any time you wish.

Precompose powers our continued commitment to climate healing, environmental justice, and a radical new relationship with death.

To finish on a lighter note, we could reconsider our relationship with death and the traditional options for what happens to our bodies. We'll take a look at how mushrooms can help us decompose naturally and eat all the toxins our bodies gathered throughout our lifetimes.

Traditional burial and cremation processes fill the earth with formaldehyde used in the embalming process and all kinds of other toxins — BPA, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, preservatives, pesticides, the byproducts of disinfectants, and so much more. Jae Rhim Lee created an infinity mushroom burial suit. In death, the suit will allow mushrooms to feed on the toxins from a corpse. Coeio's Infinity Burial Suit leaves the environment better off.

How Stuff Works says, the burial suit creates life after death. Will you choose Seattle, Washington's sustainable offering, or something more traditional as your after-death choice?


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Passionate about climate change and living a debt-free, sustainable life. Determined to learn how to and build an adobe house or Earthship. The goal is to live off-grid and off the land. Energy for heat and to power electrical devices and appliances will use solar, wind, and hydro-powered electricity. No trees will die to make my home.

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