26 April 2010

What is the Most Eco way to be Buried?

I've always thought my grandparents were very eco for their time. When they passed away, they donated their bodies to teaching hospitals. The hospital picked up the bodies, had student doctors practice on them for a period of time, then cremated the bodies and sent us ashes along with an autopsy report. I thought this was the coolest way to say good-bye...!

but then, thanks to Dan Brubaker on Facebook, I came across his link - there is a much more eco-way to die! Giving your body back earth... without the use of fire (cremation) or wood (caskets) or tombstones (cement), etc. How?

I must warn you - the concept and pictures may be very graphic to some people. If you are sensitive to death and dead bodies, please, please do not click on these links.

I wonder if this can legally be done in the USA? Do you have other eco-options for burial? Share away.


  1. impassionate environmentalistApril 26, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    burial at sea, only without a casket or other stuff. be sure to do it far out in the ocean so that the body won't wash up on shore somewhere. someone else suggested burying the body itself very deep in the earth and letting it decompose naturally.

    not all of us live near places where the bodies get picked clean fast like tibet. also, we don't want to leave bodies for predators (i.e., bears, cougars) to get used to the taste of human flesh.

    another con to cremation- it releases mercury from teeth fillings to the air.

  2. The graphic pictures sure gave me a squeamish nightmare of birds eating me alive last night.

    After giving a long thought about it....

    I found Sky Burial an interesting, respectable and cultural way of "leaving no trace behind" method. Vultures sure help that but I still do not think it is a good worldly solution. For instance, Buffalo, New York do not have vultures like we see on the Tibetan mountains.

    If we throw tons of body in the sea or on the mountaintops for fishes and birds to eat, we will still have problems. Think about how many people die every day. I would not be surprised to hear about dead bodies or skeletons washing up on shores or turning into the island of bodies (Is that possibly so??) like we read about the island of plastics that was on the news not too long ago. Also, if we have natural disasters happening, will we be able to feed all the dead bodies to birds in a very short amount of time before diseases and infections manifest, spread, and negatively impact our ecosystem? Can birds carry diseases passed on by dead bodies? Not sure about that.

    After I did some research, I learned that mountain people, especially more so with high populations, do not have enough lands to "green" bury the bodies. Living on the rugged mountaintops make it difficult to bury the bodies six feet under. In that case, vultures help get rid of the bodies and keep the lands clear of diseases. And also it is understandable that Tibetan people believe and support the cycle of life while incorporating it with their leave no trace behind philosophy.

    If I am living in Buffalo, I would opt for the Green Burial method. But if I live on the mountaintop with Tibetan people, then the Sky Burial method would be okay with me. I would make the choice based on what are available within the region.

    To conclude, I think we should keep options open with the eco/natural ways to be buried. Sky Burial is one of them, but it is not the silver bullet in maintaining the ecosystem, I think.

    P.S. I hope that man in the picture is using biodegradable plastic coat while he is doing the job of breaking the skeleton apart.

  3. This is very amazing to observe and I had no inkling this do exist. A sky burial, hmm.

    Impassionate environmentalist and Anthony have made good points. Rather than having a casket and tomb, I want to just be simply buried deep the earth and go through the natural decomposition. I highly doubt that if the wild animals have access to dead bodies, it would lead them to go after live humans.

    Raychelle, I never thought about donating your body to teaching hospitals. Wow! That's a neat idea although I'm still not sure if I want to do that. I would if it means replacing the use of animals.

  4. Raychelle's comment mysteriously disappeared, but luckily that I receive e-mail notifications, so that I can re-post her comment. Here is Raychelle's comment:

    that's interesting about mercury fillings and cremation. i would've thought in order to prepare a body for burial, cremation, or etc - that all artificial parts are taken out (e.g. pacemaker, mercury fillings, silicone, etc). guess not. and i can imagine with someone from hollywood, there wouldn't be much human parts left over.

    now i'm wondering can i ensure mercury removal from my teeth before "burial"? i know we can go to the dentist and request that our fillings be replaced with more natural (ceramic?) versions... maybe we should do that now to avoid problems at the end...

    and what about these supposedly eco/natural ways to be buried?

    Natural Burials

    Green Burials

    Organic Burials

    greenwashing? or simply green capitalism?

  5. Anthony: I did read an article recently in Tibet, the Buddhist monks had to suspend the sky burial because the vultures cannot keep up eating hundreds of deceased bodies due to the latest earthquake in Tibet.

    There are three options to honor the deceased bodies in Tibet: Sky burial, cremation & since the soil beneath 6 inch is frozen solid, they sometimes leave the body and pile the rocks all over it -- which is why I saw dozens of photographs that contains the mounds of rocks with flag or message on it.

    Like you, Anthony, I admit that I viewed the vultures as malicious & nasty creatures UNTIL I saw the link. Yes, it shook me up. But I realized that you can see the eyes and the body language of the vultures approaching the body -- they appreciate the generosity. They need to eat. I can sense the gratitude between the people and the vultures.

    That was humbling experience. Never will I view the vultures in a negative way.


  6. yes...funny how people think vultures are despicable... they're actually called scavengers of the earth. they CLEAN the earth for us. without them, we'd have rotting flesh all over. and guess which other animal is in the same category?

    our dear Bald Eagle. yes, bald eagles are scavengers too, just like vultures, but since they're endangered we don't really see them eating roadkill off our roads so we don't perceive them that way... interesting... but they do sit around and hope something dies so they can eat it :)

    that's why people didn't want the Bald Eagle to be the US Symbol, and Ben Franklin proposed the Turkey - but lost to Thomas Jefferson who pushed for the Bald Eagle.

    brief history can be read here: http://litestraboen.blogspot.com/2006/12/noble-eagle-or-scavenger-ugly-bird.html

    every creature on earth has a reason for being here - be it scavenger, pollinator, prey, etc. it's amazing how every thing works together beautifully.

    michael pollan explains this with an amazing farm example where cows eat all the grass and crap all over, then the chickens run to eat the maggots inside the cow crap, in which the process naturally spreads the crap all over for fertilization for new grass... watch this short video where he explains this awesome way nature balances itself in detail:


    someone just informed me of another ECO way to be "buried" - donate your body to a BODY FARM! this farm leaves your bodies all over, exposed to the elements so forensic anthropologists can practice identifying your age, how you died, etc. makes sense, even CSI folks need practice! i have a friend who just signed her body away to that farm in tennessee :)



  7. My friend, biology professor wrote: "Having a funeral with a buzzard banquet instead of a burial is a new idea. I once buried a dog and planted a tree over it so that the dogs minerals could nourish the tree, but in any event a person will be recycled eventually."

  8. Ridor, I, too, viewed vultures as evil species. When I was a child, I was influenced by cartoons depreciating vultures and associating them with dark clouds and thunderstorms. Now it is good to know there are birds that will eat roadkill and deceased bodies to keep our planet clean of rotten flesh and diseases.

    Also humans can eat road kill too. There are Roadkill recipes and even Road Kill Grill on Wheels!!


    Roadkill Cuisine

    Roadkill Grill on Wheels

    I remember hearing stories from a few local Buffaloians about how they cooked and ate roadkill meats while they traveled through America by feet.

    Raychelle, I did not know about the Body Farm! That's a bit eerie. And interesting about the Franklin and Jefferson debate!! I'm glad America picked Bald Eagle. Turkey would be lame in my opinion. LOL.

    Sandy, I agree about ground burials without the caskets.

  9. @Raychelle, I recently had my mercury filling (from when I was a teen) replaced with a porcelain filling. Better do that now before you die! ;)

    Another "Green Buriel" would be direct burial in the ground without a coffin. But you have to do this at an approved Green Cemetery. I also recently learned from a pig farmer that you can compost your body. He composts his dead pigs and other meat effectively. When he dies, he wants to be composted. Of all the "Green Buriel" methods, this one appeals to me the most and is actually the greenest option. I used to think that cremation was the greenest option but it isn't due to energy needed to burn the body which then causes pollution.

  10. @keri - porcelain filling... i'm intrigued... did you have to pay for the replacement out of your pocket or does dental insurance cover it? how much?

    very true about composting bodies. i think i'd like to do that. don't want to have to transport my body too far (high carbon) so will have to find something local!

  11. My filling was old and it cracked my tooth so they took it out and replaced it. I had to pay for it because we have low-end dental insurance (only covers cleanings) but it wasn't terribly expensive. I feel better that there is no mercury on me anymore! ;)

  12. thanks for the tip... i'll look into it! maybe even do a vlog about it lol...!

  13. i asked a good friend of mine about mercury filling removal - she said hers were removed improperly, by, unfortunately, a holistic dentist and it took her years to recover from mercury contamination of her mouth and tongue... she recommended dr. bill de long in ellicott city, maryland - will get in touch with him.

    this is a good informative website about mercury fillings:
    Filling Sick Lately?

  14. I'm sorry to hear about the side effects of your friend's experience getting her mercury fillings removed. =( My dentist is very professional and had a powerful vacuum in my mouth that was constantly on while he removed the mercury. So far, no ill side effects...

  15. glad your experience was pleasant...! how long ago did you have them removed? do you know if your dentist disposed of these fillings properly?

    my "regular" dentist uses a powerful vacuum, but this vacuum is connected to water pipes so basically my mercury fillings will get in the water- kind of cancels out the effort of getting them removed in the first place if they're disposed of improperly, ya know? so that's why i'm looking for a dentist who is an expert at mercury filling removal - and disposes of them properly-

    my friend said she also wasn't told that she was supposed to take medications 6 months before and 6 months after the removal... was that true for you? did you have to take meds? what kind of meds? sorry if i'm asking so many (personal) questions!

  16. No problem about the questions. Good learning/sharing experience for all of us! ;)

    I have to admit, I didn't think to inquire about how the mercury was going to be disposed of. In fact, I didn't know they were going to remove the mercury until at the appointment so I was kind of "in the moment" where I didn't have time to think about possible consequences, etc.

    My mercury was removed just two weeks ago, approximately. This vacuum is different from the one that they use for cleaning my teeth. I am assuming that it is a special one where the mercury will be disposed of safely...at least I hope so!

    Medications 6 months before and 6 months after????!!!! I'm sorry but your friend's dentist sounds like a quack! Unless your friend has specific health issues that may be affected by any dental procedure but still 6 months before/after makes no sense. A couple hours before/after makes more sense. My dentist said nothing anything about me having to take meds. It was just an in-and-out procedure, similar to having my teeth cleaned. No special maintenance or anything.

  17. wow, just two weeks ago? awesome! and glad everything went well! :)

    yes, a quack, apparently.

    still researching on my end here... will get back to you all when i finally decide what to do and will share how it played out :)