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The environmental impact of your death

The environmental impact of your death

You may want to be remembered after you die but Seven Ponds raises the question of just what sort of impact you want to make:

The environmental impact of death is a growing concern for funeral consumers, and rightly so. Traditional burial in the U.S. has come to encompass a wide variety of obstructive, unnecessary, invasive, and expensive services and products, such as embalming, tombstones, lacquered caskets, and heavily manicured gravesites. Thankfully, the modern after-death consumer has more choices every day, thanks to new branches of the funeral industry that are rushing to meet the demand. Green or natural burial, home funerals, and organic, fair-trade cut flower vendors, are gaining in popularity.

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Some facts:

About 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde-based embalming fluid are buried in U.S. cemeteries every year.

Ten acres of a typical cemetery contain nearly 1,000 tons of casket steel, 20,000 tons of concrete in burial vaults, and enough wood used in coffins to build 40 homes.

The danger of mercury and particulate emissions from crematoriums is a concern, yet also a subject of controversy. More cost effective high temperature filters and metal abatement systems, which will become available in the next few years, may help to mitigate this problem.

Burial preserves, conservation burial grounds, and eco-cemeteries, which preserve the natural beauty of their land, are also valuable land conservation tools.

Alternative forms of disposition such as promession and alkaline hydrolysis are being developed, though promession has yet to be commercially developed, and alkaline hydrolysis is only available to consumers through one cremation service provider in Florida.

Many large-scale cut flower growers employ unsound environmental and social practices. Organizations such as Veriflora and Calyx Flowers offer ready alternatives.

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Bill Dilworth

Ew. While "promession" sounds merely funny (I have visions of a mortuary worker freezing you with liquid nitrogen and whacking you on the head with a hammer) the pressure-cooking-a-body-in-lye-and-flushing-it-into-the-sewer option sounds like another step in dehumanization. It will probably be wildly popular, especially since the funeral industry will be able to charge the same prices for the process as cremation, making an even heftier profit: it will be added to the list of outrageously expensive products and services already marketed to the grieving and the mortality-conscious.

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