Professor David Terrell
I’ve chosen to write my final paper in this course on my industry and what it is doing to make a difference to the environment and the trend with “green” burials.
The green burial movement is still somewhat small, but the interest is steadily growing in environmentally concerned people who are opting to return their body to the elements; nature.
A common theme of a natural or green (also known as ecoburial) burial is using a biodegradable casket or shroud. No use of toxic chemicals; embalming fluids, concrete vaults or liners, no air pollution or energy waste from cremation.
Crematories built within the past 10 years are very efficient and have almost no air pollution, but they do rely on fossil fuels to generate fire and they still have some emissions. Older retorts have been replaced by double burners which burn off many pollutants; but the cremation process releases dioxin, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide. Cremation also requires a container, therefore choosing simple unlined casket without chipboard and plastics can further help reduce pollution.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, crematories release more than 200 pounds of mercury each year, or less than 1 percent of the total mercury emissions in the U.S. (mostly from dental fillings.)
Typically, natural burial can be as affordable as cremation. Families do not have to incur the cost of a casket, embalming, or burial vaults or liners and green burials do not contribute pollutants to the atmosphere.
In my homeland, England, green burial has taken off. The Association of Natural Burial Grounds was created there in 1994, and there are close to 200 green-burial grounds open or planned. Industry experts say it's starting to catch on in the U.S., where green cemeteries hosting natural burials have sprouted up in California, Florida, New York, South Carolina and Texas and here in Oregon.
I think in the few years to come, we’ll be seeing even more of a trend toward natural burial. I’m more frequently asked about it, every month, when I meet with families to discuss their choice for disposition.