Which is the greener option, Cremation or Burial?

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 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.

A statistic said 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. What about the toxicity of embalming materials or permanent land use area used by burial? – These are impossible to cross compare.

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.

That greatest impact is potentially on land use if we all opted to be buried in our own plot we could not keep up with land use requirements.

So if you do choose the cremation route here are some practical things to consider:

As for the environmental impact of scattering the funeral ashes themselves: the Environment Agency has produced some guidance on this basically:

Cremated remains contain a large amount of phosphate which is a fertiliser, so try and get a wider distribution, spread the ashes over a larger space as possible don’t just tip the container upside down and leave a little mound.

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