The environmental impact of the funeral industry is horrendous. The average person attending a funeral cannot fully comprehend all the factors that contribute to carbon emissions and pollution. Many of these factors that negatively impact the planet take effect behind the scenes.
All of the Materials Used
When you analyze the entire scope of the funeral industry from a national level it is very apparent how devastating our funeral industry is. According to the United States Census Bureau, over 2.4 million Americans die every year. The National Funeral Directors Association found that the rate of burial funerals is 53% and 47% choose cremation in the United States in 2017. This correlates to 1.2 million people needing caskets every single year in the US alone!
The Berkeley Planning Journal conducted an analysis of burial funerals. After surveying the materials used, it found that we use 30 million pounds of hardwood, 2,695 tons of copper and bronze, 104,270 tons of steel, and 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete for burial vaults and caskets. The sheer amount of resources used is staggering. The total amount of wood needed to create caskets is equivalent to 4 million square acres of forest.
Looking at land used for burial funerals on a global scale strongly illustrates the problem of unnecessary land usage. Every year 55.3 million people die worldwide according to World Health Organization. Now imagine if all 55.3 million chose a burial memorial service. Assuming every person gets a standard 7 ft by 3 ft grave plot, this means that 1,161,300,000 square feet or 41.66 square miles of habitable/arable land is now solely devoted to graveyards. Every year! And this number is only growing as our world population continues to grow.
The whole burial process is a carbon emissions nightmare. There is a lot of energy that is required to manufacture a casket and to transport it. Some other emissions stem from:
- harvesting materials ie. cutting down trees
- transporting the wood
- cement manufacturing
- lawn care maintenance for the cemetery grounds
Fortunately, the funeral industry is starting to take responsibility for it’s role in pollution and emissions. Many companies are using biodegradable caskets and cremation urns that require fewer resources to create and eventually degrade when buried. Some companies are getting creative with how they give back to the environment. Safe Passage Urns protects the environment by planting a tree for every single cremation urn sold. This promise allows people to contribute back to mother nature while also memorializing a loved one.
Funerals do not have to be a scourge on our planet. As more awareness is brought to the problem, we have seen the industry take notice and offer more environmentally friendly memorial products. If you are planning a funeral, the last thing you should be worried about is the harm you are doing to the planet by memorializing a loved one. Memorial services should be focused on paying tribute to a loved one. Inform yourself with this guide on funeral planning so that you can focus more attention on your family and loved ones.
Returning to the Earth in a more natural way is an incredible gesture that shows true gratitude and appreciation for the planet you call home. By being more aware of your individual environmental impact, we can collectively help restore the planet and leave the world a better place for our children and all future generations to come.
National Funeral Directors Association – http://www.nfda.org/news/media-center/nfda-news-releases/id/2511/nfda-cremation-and-burial-report-shows-rate-of-cremation-at-all-time-high
United States Census Bureau – https://www.census.gov/
Berkeley Planning Journal – https://escholarship.org/uc/item/7br0d6c3