Many people believe that they have few options when it comes to funeral and burial decisions – this is just not true! What you and your family decide to do with your body after death is a sacred decision, and there are many things to consider. There are a surprising number of options available, and new ones are becoming available quite frequently. Aside from the burial method itself, cost can be an important factor for many families. There are online resources (such as the Funeral Consumers Alliance, https://funerals.org/) which list the current prices for common burials in your area.
Here we will provide an overview of some commonly used burial methods, in hopes that you may start considering which of these is right for you. It is never too early to start planning.
Green burial: Green (or natural) burials emphasize simplicity. The body is placed in a shroud and/or a biodegradable coffin made of plain wood, cardboard or wicker. Green burials are environmentally friendly, and do not use chemicals to prepare the body. The goal is complete decomposition of the body and its natural return to the soil. These burials are significantly less costly than the other options, and they also contribute to preservation of natural areas. Depending on your state, burying a body on private land may be an option, but be sure to check your state’s regulations.
Infinity Burial Suit: Another option is an Infinity Burial Suit. This one is quite unconventional – it is a jumpsuit woven from mushroom-spore-infused thread. Mushrooms grow around the body once it’s been buried, breaking it down. Mushrooms can also neutralize any environmental contaminants in this area, yielding fertile soil. This is a very environmentally friendly option. A recent Ted Talk covers more on the Infinity Burial Suit (https://www.ted.com/talks/jae_rhim_lee?language=en).
Casket burial: Casket burials continue to be very common in the U.S., but popularity is steadily declining. Many people are familiar with this method and some prefer this tradition. Casket burials can happen above ground (such as in a mausoleum), or below ground. With this option, you can choose to be embalmed, or not. Casket burials are not an environmentally-friendly approach, as embalming and other chemicals can leech into the soil. With this kind of burial, bodies are prevented from breaking down in a natural manner. Overall, this can be one of the most costly types of burials.
Cremation: Cremation is the burning of a body to yield ashes. There are several options for cremation, including scattering cremated remains, keeping them in an urn (various different urns are available) or burying them. This can be a lower cost option. Cremation is becoming much more popular, and has surpassed casket burial as the most commonly used method in the U.S. Unfortunately, the cremation process can result in significant air pollution, so it is not considered to be an environmentally-friendly option.
Other types: Various other options exist to care for your body after death, but most are not yet mainstream. Some include dissolution, Living Urn burials (https://www.thelivingurn.com), memorial diamonds (https://mymemorialdiamond.com), Resomation (http://resomation.com) , space burials (https://www.celestis.com), coral reef burials (http://www.eternalreefs.com) and body donation. Each of these greatly vary in price and process.
If you are interested in one of these types of burials (or something else we didn’t include), don’t forget to share this information with a loved one. Taking the time to begin planning for the end of your life, or that of a loved one, is truly a gift.
Burial Planning. (2019). Burial Options: Which is Right for You and Your Family? Retrieved from https://www.burialplanning.com/burial-types/burial-types/
Funeral Consumers Alliance (2019). Green Burial, An Environmentally Friendly Choice. Retrieved from https://funerals.org/?consumers=green-burial
Lexikin. (2016). Burial Alternatives. Retrieved from https://www.lexikin.com/funerals/burial-alternatives/
TED. (2011). My Mushroom Burial Suit. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/jae_rhim_lee?language=en