Is cremation environmentally friendly? Cremation or Burial which is the greener option? Good questions…
Most people don’t base a decision on whether to get cremated on environmental grounds – either you want to be buried or you want to be cremated.
Should you have strong green agenda then there are arguments from both sides, but the comparisons are incredibly difficult. Even comparing the carbon footprint of cremation against burial is difficult – initially cremation is perhaps five times more polluting, but the long-term maintenance of a grave can outweighs this.
Apparently cremation is equivalent to a 500-mile car journey, but where bereavement is concerned, this may pale into insignificance compared to the journeys made by grieving friends and relatives.
Then you have to consider other impacts: mercury in tooth fillings and its impact on air quality, but its actual impact is dictated by specification of the crematoria and technology now removes this from the flue gas. What about the toxicity of embalming materials or permanent land use area used by burial? Burial grounds can pose a serious risk to groundwater – these are impossible to cross compare.
Arguably the greatest impact is on land use, if we all opted to be buried in our own plot we could not keep up with land use requirements. But burial is also has least impact in terms of pollutants if you opt for no embalming, natural burial site and environmentally friendly coffin.
All in all you get more questions than answers, and I would suggest most people know what they want, but would be keen to reduce the environmental impact of their funeral as much as possible.
So if you do choose the cremation route here are some practical things to consider:
- If practical choose a location near the greatest number of mourners. Carbon from travelling to the service, depending on the number of mourners, dwarfs most other impacts.
- If there is a choice of crematoria look for the one that has the best record on emissions (or one that has been recently upgraded) more information start with the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities
- Specify the coffin that is environmentally friendly here are a some companies you should consider
- Think of alternative to floral tributes, most flowers are flown in adding to the carbon footprint
As for the environmental impact of scattering the funeral ashes themselves: the Environment Agency has produced some guidance on this basically don’t:
- Do it n rivers, near places where people bathe or fish
- Do it less than a kilometre upstream of where water is taken for drinking
- Leave plastic wreaths they may end up in the water
- Do it anywhere with a fragile ecosystem eg mountain tops
If you are wondering whether cremation ashes are toxic