Funerals For The Future But Relevant Now
Is the “zero fuss” funeral the way to go?
Very recently, when David Bowie died, the direct cremation was the choice he had made. And many years ago, John Lennon had a similar arrangement. This option means the body is sent straight to the crematorium from either hospital, hospice or home with no attendance or ceremony. The ashes are then scattered as per the family’s wishes. Still small in numbers, this type of final farewell is likely to grow in popularity. As well as being considerably less expensive, it cancels out the ordeal of a funeral itself for friends and family alike.
There are other types of funerals too…
The bio urn
The bio urn or bio degradable urn will help you to live on and provide new life for a tree after your death. If you or your family chose this, your ashes are added to the biodegradable urn containing a tree seed. When planted in a suitable spot, the tree seed of choice absorbs the nutrients in your ashes as well as moisture, germinates and begins to grow. The urn is made from coconut shell, compacted peat and cellulose.
What a wonderful idea for someone who cares about the environment and the planet, and wants to make a final statement by reducing their carbon footprint in this way. The idea came from the Catalan artist and product designer Gerard Moline who combined the romantic notion of life after death with an eco solution.
The burial pod
Another innovative idea, and still in the design and development stage, is the burial pod where a person’s body is posed in the fetal position and placed into an egg-shaped pod attached to a tree seedling – if possible, the type of tree is chosen by the deceased before their death. The pod is then planted in the earth and, as the tree grows, it draws nutrients from body to provide a living memorial for friends and family to visit.
The resulting aesthetic appeal of a forest of trees, in place of rows of tombstones, could also have an important impact on the environment by not only ensuring the planting of new trees but also preventing the cutting down of existing trees for traditional wood coffins. Like the bio urn, this concept was also Italian – the designers being Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli.
Both the bio urn and the burial pod (if the ideas really catch on) could lead to special gardens, parks or woodland areas dedicated for the planting of these trees in different areas of the country. This is an amazing opportunity to create protected forests as final resting places for all the right reasons – beauty, peace of mind, shade, protection, oxygen, a safe shelter for wildlife and a wonderful place for children to explore knowing that their ancestors are watching over them.
At the moment, and unique to Florida, is a funeral home where patrons can opt to have their tissues dissolved as an alternative to traditional cremation. The process, called resomation or “bio-cremation”, uses heated water and potassium hydroxide to liquefy the body, leaving only bones behind. The bones are then pulverized in much the same way as regular cremation. Apparently, this is a more environmentally friendly process than the natural-gas-fueled fire for cremation, which reaches temperatures of 1,600 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (871 to 982 degrees Celsius), releasing carbon dioxide as well as trace chemicals such as mercury from dental fillings. Resomation requires water of only 350 degrees F (176 degrees C) and takes the same amount of time as traditional cremation.
These environmentally-friendly alternatives to wooden coffins are naturally hand crafted and you can choose from bamboo, seagrass, cane and willow. These type of caskets can be used for cremations or for natural burials.
Natural burials are interments that take place without embalming and without the concrete vaults that line graves in most modern cemeteries. Bodies are wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket, the idea being that they will decompose naturally. There are at least 50 natural cemeteries in the USA with many regular cemeteries providing facilities for natural graves. Embalming comes with a very high cost and a growing concern about the environmental effects of the embalming procedures and all the goods and resources devoted to this modern method. In addition, many natural cemeteries double as nature preserves, and many people like the idea of contributing to the ecosystem after death by allowing the body to rejoin the cycle of life.
Georgia-based Eternal Reefs creates artificial reef material out of a mixture of concrete and human remains (the crushed bone left over from cremations). These heavy concrete orbs are then placed in areas where reefs need restoration, attracting fish and other organisms that turn the remains into an undersea habitat, providing an opportunity not just to return to an aquatic environment but to produce new life under the sea.
Finally, and yet another newcomer for an eco-burial suggestion. is a process called promession or freeze-drying and invented by Swedish marine biologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak. This process includes immersing the corpse in liquid nitrogen to make it very brittle before being vibrated and evaporated with any mercury fillings or surgical implants being filtered out before the powdered remains are laid to rest in a shallow grave. With a shallow burial, oxygen and water can mix with the powdered remains, turning them into compost.
Green and environmentally-friendly burials are starting to catch the imagination of the American and worldwide public.