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Environmental comparison of funeral options

Environmental comparison of funeral options

how sustainable is…

…a funeral? Which option has the lowest environmental impact? The study summarised here looked at the environmental impact of funerals starting with their preparation, such as activities of relatives, the farewell ceremony, right through to body decomposition. Aside from traditional burial or cremation, it also considers two new technologies: cryogenic freezing (cryomation) and alkaline hydrolysis.

The environmental impact categories considered include:

  • freshwater eutrophication
  • ozone layer depletion
  • global warming
  • land use
  • eco-toxicity
  • human toxicity
  • acidification

The study finds that the biggest environmental impact of the entire process is associated with the preparatory steps, such as flowers, transport requirements etc. In terms of the lowest impact on the environment from body decomposition, the study suggests that a burial has the highest impact on the environment, i.e. higher than cremation and cryogenic freezing and alkaline hydrolysis. For example, the study finds that, even though almost no fossil fuels are involved directly, a burial has a higher global warming potential than cremation, due to cemetery maintenance and fuel use for transport of the headstone and for the burial itself. The study suggests that the two new technologies have the lowest impact on the environment overall (but does note that the data may be biased as the research relied on data from the companies promoting these technologies respectively and on ‘related websites’).

Link to full report

While we make every effort to be accurate, we do not claim that this summary is representative. Please refer to our Legal Disclaimer for details.

what can I do to reduce my environmental footprint?

Based on the result of the above study, it would appear that cryogenic freezing or alkaline hydrolysis are the methods of choice purely from an environmental perspective, i.e. not considering cultural drivers, with regards to the final part of a funeral. However, if you prefer a burial or cremation (or cryogenic freezing and alkaline hydrolysis are not available in your region) and you want to reduce the impact on the environment of a funeral, you could consider small changes to a conventional funeral, such as using a casket made from materials that have a lower impact on the environment than conventional caskets and asking mourners to contribute to the planting of one or more trees instead of having flowers.

Report Rating: 3 of 3

Report Published: 2011

Country: The Netherlands

Author(s): Elisabeth Keijzer

Publisher: uitvaartmedia.com

Funder: Yarden (Dutch funeral business)

Keywords:  environmental impact, sustainability, funeral, burial, cremation, cryogenic freezing, alkaline hydrolysis, cryomation, resomation, promession

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