Here at livegreenbegreen, we are always searching for new and inventive ways to maintain a green lifestyle. So when I came across this article which detailed the environmental effects of our deaths, my interest peaked to say the least.
The article, written by Yuan Gao and Robert Short, describes the environmental problem our passing’s cause as, “Every cremation creates about 160 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2).” This is a particular problem in China where nearly five million bodies were cremated in 2011 alone. More staggering is that the rate of cremation is increasing due to the aging population, which ultimately will result in an estimated 143,066 tons of additional CO2 being emitted. This figure fails to mention the other pollutions that will be released as a result of the process including, “…Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, monoxide, hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, and mercury among others.”
Thankfully, the authors propose greener options to combat this growing problem. They advocate, “Burying the corpse in a simple and biodegradable bag or container under a tree, without building stone tombs or erecting tombstones.” This ultimately would save valuable land space in addition to reducing the emissions from a cremation alternative. Also, the additive of placing the bodies near trees enables them to absorb CO2 that naturally emits from the decaying body and enables them to grow naturally and sustainably. Lastly, this practice saves wood for those buried in wood coffins, and makes ecological sense in that our bodies, in an act of retribution, serve as a natural fertilizer for the earth we used during our lifetimes.
While we tend to focus on changing our current habits to affect the world in a positive place, similarly our posthumous actions can have a lasting impact on our environment. By changing the way we think, we can all have a positive bearing on our planet both during our lifetime, and after death.