A Greener Funeral
A Greener Funeral was launched on the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, 2010, and is sponsored by Passages International, Inc. The goal of this organization and accompanying resources is to educate the general public about ways in which they can leave a lighter footprint on this earth by selecting a greener funeral. How green a family ultimately decides to be is entirely up to them.
According to National Geographic, “American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million boardfeet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid.” This translates to nearly 1,000 tons of casket steel, 20,000 tons of concrete in burial vaults, and enough wood used in coffins to build more than three dozen homes within about ten acres of a typical cemetery.
Embalming is not known to have any environmental or health benefits and is only rarely required by law, such as in some instances of interstate transport of the remains or following death by infectious disease. Contrary to popular belief, an unembalmed body will not spread disease in the surrounding environment, according to the Center for Disease Control. Also, embalming fluids are generally formaldehyde-based. Formaldehyde is a chemical commonly used in many preservative materials and construction materials such as particleboard, and while it is a naturally occurring chemical, which readily biodegrades in the ground and in the air, it is also recognized as a carcinogen by the EPA, and is known to cause adverse health effects over long periods of exposure. This is especially relevant when considering funeral service employees who perform embalming procedures on a frequent basis.