The funeral industry has a pollution problem. It's also an industry that is slow to move on from tradition — especially when those traditions are the reason death is worth billions.
Death is also a topic we try to avoid. It's not easy thinking about how we return our bodies to the earth. But coffins, embalming services, grave plots, tombstones, and all the other dressings add up in cost, labour and emissions.
However, if you're eco-minded, you do have a few options in how you dispose of a body.
A green burial
Forget about the toxic chemicals used for embalming; the varnished wood caskets that need to be produced and shipped — and the four feet of concrete under the tombstone. Green burials remove the excess of traditional burials by putting the body straight into the ground.
Willow's Rest in Niagara Falls is a prime example of the benefits of a green burial site. The 2-acre site sits at the back of Fairview Cemetery, surrounded by trees and covered in wildflowers. Birds, bees, and friendly squirrels call the calm environment home. Willow's Rest even offers beekeeping workshops and tours for those wanting to learn more about the benefits of green burial and nature.
Green burial sites offer a cemetery that belongs to nature. It's a spot where you can sit and take in the life around you, and the lives of those who are now returning back to the earth, a feeling that may be difficult to have among rows of tombstones.
The mushroom suit
It's like a green burial but with the power of mushrooms.
The mushroom suit, or the infinity suit, was developed by Coeio. It's a completely bio-degradable suit that has mushroom spores built in. Through mycoremediation, "the process by which mushrooms remove or eliminate toxins from the environment," the suit cleanses the body of said toxins, speeds up the body decomposition, and delivers nutrients directly to the plants around it.
The suit is commercially available but not widely used yet.
Aquamation is how you cremate a body with water.
Don't worry, they're not flushing grandma down the drain like some headlines would have you believe. In fact, there's no trace of mRNA or DNA going down the drain. The process actually results in a completely sterile solution of amino acids, sugars, nutrients, and salts.
However, especially if you're in Ontario, the industry has been slow to adopt this method. Why? Well, according to Trevor Charbonneau at the Newcastle funeral home, it threatens the cremation industry. Cremation requires an investment not only into the machines and the constant upkeep but into an entire building to house the crematorium.
If you think that's an overstatement, Charbonneau was actually brought to court over aquamation. He won, but the damage in the public eye was done.
Aquamation only needs the machines and requires very little space to operate. This has opened up access to cremation for smaller boutique funeral homes. The same boutique homes that relied on major funeral homes for cremation.
Death is a certainty in life. With a rising population, alongside the rise in climate change catastrophes, being aware of the final impact you have on the Earth is becoming more important than ever. So while it's a topic we try to avoid, it might be time to consider how we dispose of our bodies.
If you want to see behind the scenes of aquamation and learn more about the benefits of green burials, you should check out Technality's video on green deaths.