While conventional cemeteries are serene in appearance, much is hidden from view. Consider all the resources buried under the ground – caskets constructed from polished wood or metal, often housed within a concrete vault, nestled beneath even more concrete marking the name of the deceased. The pristine lawn requires regular mowing, as well as the use of pesticides. Most families who choose conventional burial will also request embalming, which involves formaldehyde, a highly toxic substance.
Cremation is considered to be slightly more sustainable, and has become quite popular, with roughly 60% of Ontarians choosing to be cremated. However, it is far from environmentally friendly. Powered by electricity, a crematorium retort will operate at 760 to 1150 degrees celsius for at least an hour for each cremation and the average cremation uses 28 gallons (106 litres) of fuel to burn a single body.
More sustainable cremation methods are being developed. Alkaline hydrolysis, also called bio-cremation or water cremation, uses about 1/12th the energy of a conventional cremation, and is expected to soon be offered more widely in Ontario. Another option called recomposition, a system of composting the dead, is also being developed, though is not yet available in Canada. For more information on recomposition visit The Good Green Death Project at http://goodgreendeathproject.ca/.
Most encouraging, natural burial grounds are growing in popularity worldwide. With natural burial, not only are you choosing a disposition with the lightest of footprints, you are actually helping the land. You provide perpetual protection with your mere presence in the ground, and you help maintain an ecologically thriving place by allowing nutrients from your body to be recycled – not destroyed.