Cremation is greener than burial. Even though it takes quite a bit of energy to cremate a body, green experts agree that it's still better for the environment than the resources consumed to make coffins, and the toxic chemicals used for embalming. Traditional burial is still the most common choice for the deceased, but that may change in this economic climate - families who have been affected by the downturn are finding that cremation is a less costly way to say farewell to their loved ones. It's just another example of how the recession can unintentionally make us greener.
The Baltimore Sun found that funeral homes in the Maryland area have seen an increase in cremations in the past year, mirroring a national trend. The environment is not on the minds of the bereaved, though - it's all about cutting costs for the living:
David Weber, owner of David J. Weber Funeral Homes in Catonsville and Baltimore's Upper Fells Point, said those opting for cremation typically lack a cemetery plot, which can cost $1,500 or so. A lack of life insurance often enhances cremation's appeal since ground burial can cost $7,000 or more.
But many families choosing cremation still request a viewing and a memorial service - everything, basically, but the limousine trip to the graveyard.
"They're seeing a chance to have their full service," said Weber, who serves as a spokesman for the National Association of Funeral Directors, "but yet it costs them two to three thousand dollars less than if they opted for the burial."
Another cost-cutting, environmentally friendly measure that family members can take is a green traditional funeral - skipping the embalming, and having the viewing and burial within the same day to save on funeral home costs. Biodegradable coffins are much cheaper than traditional ones, too (though I'm kinda unnerved by this website's discount offer for those who buy in bulk, even though I know it's intended for funeral directors). A traditional funeral with a traditional casket is still the ideal for many families who are now choosing to "settle" for a cremation, but depending on how long it takes the economy to bounce back, it may become the norm.