Showing posts with label cremation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cremation. Show all posts

Friday, April 22, 2016

Looking For The Green Reaper

I love roaming cemeteries, but I’ll admit it is disheartening to realize how “un-green” a burial can be. In honor of Earth Day, which is today, we’ll take a brief look at some of the more environmentally friendly options available when you finally “slip the surly bonds of earth" for good.

Not Your Grandparents Funerals
Embalming During the Civil War
During the Civil War, embalming was used so that a soldier’s remains could be sent back to the family, when possible. In the coming years, embalming became accepted as experts touted the therapeutic advantages of having an open coffin, allowing the family more time to “say good-bye.”

Today, modern embalming assures the family a few days to hold a visitation and funeral for the deceased without purification setting in. But is it necessary? Not really! Embalming is required by law only in cases when death has occurred due to certain contagious diseases, or if the body must be transported a long distance. So what are the environmental effects of death on our planet?

According to Seven Ponds, a group that promotes harmony with the environment, even in death, “Adverse environmental effects of embalming fluids leaching into the ground following a body’s burial have yet to be adequately established, but over 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid are introduced into U.S. soil every year through burial, sometimes disconcertingly close to animal and plant life.“

What Are Greener Options?
There are several alternatives including cremation, natural burial, and a “green” funeral. Here’s a quick breakdown on each.

Cremation is on the rise, thanks to Baby Boomers looking for more economical burial methods, and willing to take a stand for the environment. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) predicted that the rate of cremation would exceed that of burial by 3% for 2015. By 2025, it is predicted that 56% of Americans will choose cremation. This change is also due, in part, to many religious faiths that now embrace cremation, where once it was discouraged.

Carbon Emissions
But cremation also has its drawbacks, mainly due to carbon emissions. One cremation produces the same carbon emissions as driving a car 500 miles. To counter this, request a casket that is made of  wicker or recycled cardboard. Or consider having the body placed in a shroud of organic material.

Also request that any medical parts be removed and recycled, if possible. (Pacemakers and prosthetic limbs are both recyclable.) Tooth fillings should also be removed before cremation because they can create toxic mercury emissions.

Once the body has been cremated, (remember cremation is a process), the cremains should have a final resting place designated. Cremains may be buried or placed in a columbarium, (Consider a biodegradable urn.) The cremains may be scattered in a special location (Launched into space, and placed on coral reefs are just two options.), or returned in an urn or box to the family.

You might also consider making a contribution to Carbon Fund, as a way to offset your carbon footprint.

Natural Burial
Natural Burial
A natural burial is when the body is buried without any chemical preservatives such as embalming fluid. A shroud may be used to wrap the body, or it may be placed in a biodegradable coffin made of organic material such as bamboo, recycled cardboard or recycled newspaper. No concrete vault is used; the body is placed directing in the earth. GPS may be used to locate the burial plots; the goal is to preserve nature as it is, and to sustain natural plants and wildlife in the area.

Green Cemeteries
Green Cemetery
Green Cemeteries started to really catch on with the eco-conscious at the beginning of the 21st century. (The first green cemetery was created in 1993 in England at Carlisle Cemetery.) These green graveyards are natural settings filled with plants, native grasses and flowers, trees and bushes. Monuments and tombstones are not allowed but natural rocks and trees are usually permitted to mark the grave.

Many traditional cemeteries now offer special sections where green burials are held. And remember, a green cemetery will not use any pesticides, herbicides or irrigation.

Green Funerals
Green Funeral
A green funeral advocates the phrase, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” A green funeral may include any or all of these elements: no embalming, or embalming with formaldehyde-free products, use of a biodegradable shroud and/or coffin, burial in a natural setting or in a cemetery without the use of a vault. Recycled paper products such as memorial cards and programs may be used, along with locally grown flowers and plants for the service and grave.

Each of us can work to reduce our carbon footprint during our lives. And, yes, we can also continue to do good, and honor the environment, after we’re gone …

~ Joy

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Kiosk of Death at the Mall

The Mall
Now, it seems, you can have it all. One-stop lifetime shopping from baby clothes, to wedding supplies, to tax services, and funeral arrangements.
Earlier this year, a California funeral home, Forest Lawn Memorial Parks & Mortuaries, began placing kiosks in 4 southern California malls. 

Mall Shopping
The cart kiosks are low key, featuring urns, some with themes, to entice folks to stop and talk to the advanced planning representative that staffs the cart. Literature and brochures are also available and may be taken home and perused.

While at first the idea seems a tad unconventional, it’s really just another way of
reaching out to those who might want to pre-plan for death but can’t bring themselves to go to the funeral home or a cemetery.

But Forest Lawn is not the first funeral home to open a mall kiosk about death.  An Indianapolis, Indiana funeral home, Flanner & Buchanan Funeral Centers partnered with two Indianapolis area Simon Malls beginning in 2004 to provide unmanned kiosks to market their cremation services.
Flanner & Buchanan Kiosk

It proved to be very successful, not only in assisting people in making pre-need decisions but also in placing several sets of cremains in area cemeteries.

Cremation is now the fastest growing service for funeral homes, and having the ability to feature urns, photos of eco-green cemeteries, and cremation jewelry at a mall kiosk is an excellent strategy. It seems that most consumers view cremation as an alternative to a funeral. They don’t understand that a funeral service can still be held, and the cremated remains can also be placed in a cemetery plot.

Today, not only are funeral homes stepping out and becoming more visible, they are also starting to engage potential customers online through social media. Since the recession of 2009, funeral homes have seen a decline in the use of their services.

2013 Hearse
1960 Hearse
Not too surprising since the average cost of a “traditional” funeral has gone up about 940% in almost 50 years. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the cost of an adult funeral in 1960 was  $708. In 2009 (the last year figures were available) the cost was $6,560. Add the price of the cemetery vault ($1,195) and a funeral will now run around $7,700.

Donate to Science

New England Burials at Sea
Consumers are now looking for alternative methods to the traditional ‘burying their dead.’ Cremation is just one of these options, along with burial at sea and donating your body to science.

And the cost of cremation is a relative bargain compared to a traditional funeral and burial. The average cost of a direct cremation (no service) is between $700 and $1,000, and that covers the cremation, urn, death certificate and taxes. Adding a funeral service, graveside service, or cemetery plot will cost extra, so plan accordingly.

In 1960 only 3.56% of those who died were cremated. As of 2011, 42% had chosen this alternative. That’s more than double the rate of cremations in 1995, and the Cremation Association of North America predicts that by 2050, over half (51.12%) of those who die will be cremated.

Mall Food Court
While it may seem a bit morbid or morose to some, it is just another opportunity for each of us to consider what we want to happen to our remains after death and provides a way for that conversation to begin; even if it is at the mall, over an Auntie Ann’s pretzel, – it’s still a beginning.

And as the band Semisonic sings in “Closing Time” -
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…”

How prophetic.

~ Joy

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Cost of Dying – Cremation

Last week, we looked at the various costs associated with dying in the United States.  All told, death is a $12 to $15-billion industry in this country. According to the 2010 Funeral Price Survey by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), Americans spent, on average, $7,775.00 for a traditional adult funeral.  (This does NOT include the burial plot and cemetery expenses.)

But not everyone wants a funeral that includes embalming, a viewing, a religious ceremony, and a graveside service.  Not to mention a state-of-the-art casket with burial vault, obituary notices, flowers, music, prayer cards, memorial cards, acknowledgement cards, hearse, and limousine for transportation to the cemetery for the interment.  National trends show that we are moving away from these traditional religious funerals.  For those seeking less pomp and circumstance, there are options.

Cremation is the alternative that more people are deciding on.  In 1985, only 15% of the deceased were cremated.  According to the Cremation Association of North America, (CANA) today, 36% of deceased are cremated.  And projections show that by 2025, almost 56% will be cremated.  (The revenue on cremations alone has increased almost 1-billion dollars in just five years.) 

Cremation in the U.S.
The acceptance of cremation varies widely across the country as shown on this 2006 map.  Western states favor cremation more than other states, with almost 67% of Hawaiian residents, along with 65% of residents in Oregon and Nevada opting for cremation.  Southern states such as Alabama and Mississippi only show 11% of those deceased being cremated.  Studies indicate that the drastic difference of acceptance for cremation in this country may be due to religion and religious beliefs.

With that in mind, cremation is growing in acceptance as our ties to tradition diminish.  According to the funeral industry-sponsored 2006 Wirthlin Report, the top five reasons why a person selects cremation are:

• Cremation saves money (30%)
• Cremation saves land (13%)
• Cremation is simpler (8%)
• The body is not in the earth (6%)
• Personal Preference (6%)

Questions to Ask
When considering cremation, the Cremation Association of North America suggests you ask the following questions before deciding on a funeral home or crematory:

  Do they have their own crematory or do they work with a cremation firm? 
If the latter, which crematory do they use?
  Who owns the crematory facility?
  How often do they inspect that facility?
  Are licenses and permits current?
 How many operators do they have and what type of training 
do they require? 
Are they CANA certified?
 Does the crematory have refrigeration?
 How long does the crematory hold the body prior to cremation?
 Does the crematory have liability insurance?
• Does the crematory facility allow witnessing by family members?

Cremation Box
Remains Box
When selecting cremation you do not have to purchase a casket.  Check with your local funeral home about renting a casket if you would like to hold a public viewing.  If you decide on direct cremation, (having the remains cremated immediately after death,) you can choose an unfinished wooden coffin or a heavy cardboard enclosure for the cremation.  You are also not required to purchase an urn for the remains. You may keep them in the box provided by the crematory.

What is Cremation?
Cremated Remains
Cremation is a process that reduces the body to ashes, known as cremains.  But the cremains are more than just ashes.  They also contain bone fragments that are pulverized and resemble gravel or broken seashells.

Cremation, like a traditional funeral, will vary in cost depending on what you decide on.  Basic cremation can cost as little as $300.  Or it can run several thousands if you decide on an Urn Committal Service, (similar to a traditional funeral service with cremation.)

Cremation Options
Private Viewing
You may choose to hold a private family viewing, without embalming, before the cremation. Embalming is never required for the first 24 after death. You also have a set amount of time to arrange for the body to be cremated before embalming may be required according to your state law.

Memorial Service
You may decide on direct (immediate) cremation and then hold a memorial service for the deceased at a later time when all of the family and friends can gather together.

Memorial Bench for Urns
Urn Committal Service
Or you could choose to have a more traditional ceremony, known as an Urn Committal Service. The deceased is embalmed and casketed for a public viewing and a funeral service is held before the cremation.  You can also purchase a burial spot for the receptacle to be buried in.

A typical cremation with memorial service and urn can cost between $1,500 and $2,000.

The Remains
Earthen Urn

Outside Columbarium
Once the body is cremated you may elect to keep the remains in a container at home, place them in a columbarium, or have them buried.

Cowboy Urn
Fingerprint Heart Jewelry
Urns and receptacles come in many options including biodegradable, hardwood, granite, marble and metal.  Urns can be very simple or as unique as you would like.  Jewelry is also offered which holds a small amount of ashes, keeping your loved one close to you.

Casting Ashes to the Wind
Cremation Garden
The ashes may also be scattered or cast at a Cremation Garden or a location that was special to the deceased.  Just make sure this is in compliance with the local health department’s regulations.  It is legal in all states to scatter or bury cremated remains on private property, as long as you have the landowner’s permission.  You may also consider scattering ashes at sea.

The most important thing to remember is that no amount of money can express how we feel about those we have lost, so we owe it to them to handle their remains in the manner that they would have wanted – with love and respect for the life they lived.

~ Joy