Nothing says classy quite like death. That is, dying in a way that gives back to others, whether that’s giving your possessions to charity or making your life’s accomplishments an example of what hard work and determination can earn. However, there’s one way we can all give back in death: ourselves.

No, not in a metaphorical sense. Our bodies are rich in carbon, bacteria and other stuff that naturally decomposes into the environment with relative ease. That being said, it seems odd that to this day burial seems to be the preferred route of putting a loved one to eternal rest. Burial of an entire body in a metal and plastic coffin seems so off-putting and gaudy, not to mention contrary to the natural process of decomposition. While there are certain religious justifications, nonethe­less the modern practice of burial is environmen­tally unfriendly and creates a future environmen­tal crisis.

Graveyards alone contain hundreds if not thousands of bodies, both subterranean and in mausoleums. With a large elderly and baby boom­er population beginning to die off, many of these locations will be hard pressed to make room for more. The process, money and storage it takes to put the deceased in their own plot of land or on a marble shelf makes no sense.

Furthermore, the resources that go into buri­als aren’t necessarily friendly to the earth. Since most coffins are made of plastic and varying metal alloys, they aren’t really known for their ability to break down. While the idea of being able to visit a loved one’s final resting place can be therapeutic or provide emotional closure, this practice is as wasteful as it is impractical.

Other methods of placing the dead to rest are more environmentally friendly and should be encouraged. Cremation, liquefaction or “bare” burials allow the body to be broken down natu­rally and require less resources to lay the dead to rest. Not to mention, there is still emotional closure in these methods, allowing family and friends who lose a loved one to mourn as they desire. All of us, young and old, should consider how we wish to leave our mark — and how we wish to leave less of an environmental footprint as well.

COURTESY OF SHANE T. MCCOY
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