You don’t have to settle for traditional embalming or burial. There are eco-friendly ways to dispose of your body when you die. Ways that better care for your bodies, your community, and your planet.
Reduce, reuse and recycle, right?
Most of us were raised to care about the planet. Since the early 90s, we’ve been celebrating Earth Day and composting faithfully. Buying chemical-free cleaning supplies with essential oils.
Pretending not to notice they don’t work.
They’re better than chemicals anyway.
We wash our sweaty clothes with vinegar. Use baking soda rather than deodorant.
“It’s natural,” we tell friends who breathe through their mouths.
Our own reusable bags long ago replaced paper or plastic at the grocery store. Don’t come at us with straws. And most of us stopped eating red meat decades before it became popular.
To consider the planet and future generations is a thing. We’re about it. As we grow older, our planet remains an important factor when making choices about the way we live.
Why should dying be any different?
Traditional ways to dispose of our bodies after death are not good for the planet. For example, embalming hurts deathworkers and the environment around us long after we’re gone.
Chemicals eventually leak into the groundwater of whatever community we are buried in. Doesn’t quite go with our “I’m Organic, Don’t Panic” bumper sticker, does it?
And let’s think about burials in general. Should our dead bodies take up all that space and land?
There’s always cremation. But that choice spews mercury and carbon into the air our descendants then have to breathe.
Surely there are better options, yes?
What are some eco-friendly ways to dispose of our bodies after death?
1. Feed mushrooms. (update 2/2023 – These are no longer in production.)
Toxins in our hair, nails, skin, and internal organs are nasty. Thanks, GE! Rather than send all that nonsense back into local drinking wells, let’s make our final pajamas an Infinity Mushroom Ninja Thing. The fungi break down our nastiness, turning it into nutrient-rich soil.
2. Donate organs.
On average, 22 people die each day of organ failure. Doesn’t have to be like that. Instead, donate eyes, lungs, heart, and even mouth tissue to people in need. This balances out the bad karma all those times you left your shopping cart in the parking lot.
3. Choose liquid cremation.
This option isn’t just a plot point from Breaking Bad. Liquid cremation is now legal in many states. Bodies are placed into a solution made of lye (water mixed with potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide.) This dissolves everything but our bones and bad habits – which are then ground up into ashes without unhealthy gases. Speaking of bad habits…
4. Turn your ashes into bling.
We don’t have to scatter our remains where no one wants them. We can convert them into jewelry or artwork instead. When a guest admires your descendants’ earrings or a painting in the living room, can you imagine the discussions that will ensue? I’m saying we have options.
5. Decompose for science.
For all you Law & Order fans, here’s your chance to help crime fighters from beyond the grave. Donate yourself to a body farm where forensic scientists study microbes, decomposition, and time of death. This helps solve real-life crimes and also catch bad guys.
6. Bury your body in a green cemetery.
Growing numbers of funeral homes and burial grounds skip embalming, iron-coated caskets, and cement tombs. Instead, they use biodegradable caskets or shrouds and have your natural body placed in the ground. No muss, no fuss. Added bonus – that site is now protected from future development. Because none of us want a Poltergeist situation.
7. Become a tree.
You heard me. Feeding forests is one of the more ecologically sound ways to dispose of our bodies. Until cryogenics comes through, this is the only way currently to live forever. Elm or Oak. You decide.
8. Join an underwater reef.
Underwater reefs help buffer shorelines against storms and floods, preventing erosion. So become one!
9. Feed the birds.
A Tibetan Buddhist ritual involves taking the body to a remote area where flocks of vultures come and do their thing. It is believed the birds take souls into heaven and poop on all your enemies. Okay, I made up that last part. Currently, this practice is not legal in the United States. Yet.
(Full disclosure: I’m an organ and whole body donator.) Choose between a medical school or maybe a place they make safer cars or helmets. You can also bequeath your full skeleton to a museum or classroom. On the other hand, maybe give your skull to a local theatre for use in Hamlet and other productions. In addition, if there are any remains…remaining…cremation is free. Let the kids take a vacation with the money they save.
Eco-friendly ways to dispose of your bodies after death bring benefit rather than harm. Not a bad legacy to leave behind.