Burial or Cremation Which Is Better for the Environment?

Monday, April 26, 2021

Your carbon footprint extends after your death. In 2020, 37.5 percent of American bodies were buried. 56 percent were cremated. 

Many people chose cremation because they assumed it had less of an impact on the environment. That's not necessarily the case.

When determining burial or cremation for yourself, you need to know the distinctions between the two. Burial and cremation contribute carbon dioxide, but they impact other parts of the environment differently. Here is your quick guide to those impacts. 


The traditional means of burial involves digging a six-foot plot of land. The person's body lies in a wooden casket, which undertakers lower down and cover with dirt. A vault surrounds the casket, then a tombstone is placed over top to mark the grave. 

This uses up a lot of resources. Americans bury 73,000 kilometers of hardwood and 1.5 million tons of concrete every year in cemeteries. The average cemetery has enough wood to construct 40 different homes. 

If you choose to get buried, you can diminish your environmental impact by refusing embalming fluids. This will allow your body to decompose naturally into the earth. 

You can then select a different means of containing your body. You can wrap your body in a shroud. It will disintegrate through time. 

You can also select a shallower grave. Burying a body at three feet prevents animals from taking it while allowing bacteria to break it down. 

The final thing you can do is ask for no flowers on top of the grave. Many florists use pesticides and excess water to grow these flowers. If others want to place bouquets, you can ask them to pick their own from nearby fields. 


Traditional cremation involves placing a body inside a cardboard or flammable box. The box is then slid into a cremator, which works at high temperatures. The body is burned down to bone and ash fragments and these fragments are placed into an urn. 

Cremation uses no wood or concrete. It does not require embalming fluids. 

But it does have an environmental footprint. Many cremators rely on natural gas, which emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

Cremation can release mercury found in dental fillings. Vaporized mercury can rise into the atmosphere and cause acid rain. Ask your funeral director to remove your fillings in advance. 

Choose a casket made of non-toxic materials like recycled cardboard. If you want to bury ashes, put them in an urn made of biodegradable substances. Common ones include wicker. 

When sprinkling ashes, make sure you are spreading them out. Too much ash can block plants from receiving oxygen and sunlight. Avoid sprinkling ashes into waterways with fish. 

Burial or Cremation?

There are two options for disposing of a person's mortal remains, burial or cremation. But breaking their environmental impacts down isn't so simple. 

A traditional burial is very costly to the environment. Choose a shroud to wrap a body in. Keep the grave shallow to allow better decomposition. 

Cremation uses up less wood, but it contributes more direct carbon dioxide emissions through burning natural gas. Diminish the footprint with a decomposable casket. Sprinkle ashes thinly over land. 

When you're ready to make arrangements, find experts. Schumacher and Benner Funeral Home offers burial and cremation options. Request a consultation today. 

Schumacher & Benner Funeral Home and Crematory is the only private on-site crematory in Pottstown, PA.That is why we can truly say, your loved one never leaves our care. Our funeral directors are crematory technicians certified by the Cremation Association of North America, which provides advanced certifications to help insure the highest standards.  

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