Burials are taking their toll on the environment. Casket production, and the chemicals involved in embalming are just two reasons. If you care about the environment during your lifetime, why not also in death?
When my father died, he didn’t give any instructions about what to do with his remains. No matter how many times I asked or pressed, the answer was always, “What do I care? I’m dead. Do what you want.” The one thing he was clear about was that he wanted to be cremated, and he didn’t want any kind of wake, funeral or memorial service. And that’s when I started to wonder about options.
In today’s day, there are some super cool things you can have done with your remains. There are also some super creepy things you can do. What’s the oddest thing you’ve heard of someone doing with their remains? Let us know in the comments. Here are just 7 options that will leave a smaller carbon footprint when, well… when you longer leave footprints.
1) Green Burial – The idea here is to have the smallest impact on the environment while still having as close to a traditional burial and funeral as possible. Formaldehyde-free embalming fluids, including one made entirely of nontoxic and biodegradable essential oils. (Sign me up for frankincense and rosemary!) Caskets, urns and shrouds are also made from materials harvested in such a way so as to not harm the environment. And cemeteries with far fewer plots per acre. To learn more, check out the Green Burial Council at GreenBurialCouncil.org.
2) Body Farm – Many people donate their organs for transplant, or medical research. Some people donate their remains to medical schools for student learning. But did you know that you can also donate your remains to the Body Farm? The original Body Farm is part of the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center. Remains are allowed to degrade under measured conditions so criminalists (think CSI and NCIS) can learn, and be better able to understand homicides, accidental deaths and facial reconstruction. Their website is chock full of info about their fascinating work and how to donate your remains: fac.utk.edu.
3) Frozen – Cryonics… the burial of the future? Want to be around for the day the world is free of disease, death and aging? Then cryonics might be for you. Freezing is a misnomer. Cryonics is really about slowing down the molecular vibrations of the cells to a near standstill, thus preserving them in their original state indefinitely. This is probably one of the more expensive things you can do, and you need to plan ahead. There are very specific steps that need to be followed at death to have the best possible outcome. There is plenty of information from the Cryonics Institute at Cryonics.org.
4) Ejected into space – If you’re a Star Trek geek, astronomer or a fan of Elon Musk and his SpaceX project, this option might be for you. Surprisingly inexpensive (starting around $1,500) you can have your ashes encapsulated and put into space. You can opt for a quick up and back, a few year orbit, moon landing or all the way to deep space. Go with the orbit option and you’ll come back to Earth as a shooting star. (How cool is that?!?!) Learn more from Celestis at Celestis.com.
5) Sleep with the fishes – Sea burials can be done with cremated remains or intact bodies. This is the only entry on this list I have personal experience with. A former client wanted this option, which had me doing some research. I discovered New England Burials at Sea, LLC. They conduct sea burials on both the east and west coasts, and at any time of year. They have boats of all different sizes to accommodate larger gatherings. I had a very good experience with this company, and I know my client’s family was very pleased with the service as well. NewEnglandBurialsAtSea.com
6) Turned into a “gem stone” – This one you can do with human or animal remains. There are several options here. In some, the cremains are incorporated into the jewelry. In another version, the cremains are compressed under extremely high pressure, effectively resulting in a “gem stone.” And in still another version, the carbon can be harvested from hair or cremains and used to “grow” a diamond. But here’s the real question, do you want to adorn a loved one for eternity? Lots of info on the Internet for this one. I’ll leave it to you to do the Google searches.
7) Evolve into a tree – A combination of cremated remains, wood chips and specially treated soil become the base that supports a sapling of your choice. Trees, plants or flowers can be grown in this way. And you can use all of someone’s cremains or only a portion. It’s one thing to plant a tree in someone’s memory, it’s another thing to know they’re physically part of that tree. The Living Urn has a bunch more information about this option: TheLivingUrn.com.
When it comes to making sure your wishes are carried out, your first priority should be to talk to whoever will be making the decisions. And if you want something out of the norm, you’ll want to make sure you spell it out in your Will. Ultimately, whomever you name as your Personal Representative (what we used to call an Executor) will be responsible for making arrangements.
I also recommend having a discussion with your closest family members so they’re aware of your wishes. Often people don’t get around to reading the Will until after they’ve made final arrangements. And there’s nothing worse than having a funeral and burial only to find out you preferred to be cremated and evolved into a tree. Of course, some things can be reversed and redone. Others, not so much.
Want to talk about how you can make sure your wishes are carried out? We’re happy to hop on the phone and help you figure out what changes you might need to make to your current plan. Just click here.