Living legacies



The environmental perspective…

Cremation has been used by many cultures for hundreds of years. It is the principal method of disposing of the dead in most densely populated countries and those whose primary religion is Hinduism or Buddhism. It has the advantage of not using up valuable cemetery space, which stretch the resources of local councils worldwide, or expensive commercial cemetery space, as in the USA.

The slogan “Save the land for the living” helped to widely promote the social acceptability of cremation, and in 1963 the Pope lifted the ban on Roman Catholics being cremated.

However, it is essentially an unsustainable operation for three significant reasons:

  • It uses a lot of our finite fossil fuel reserves
  • It creates emissions that pollute the environment, including carbon, dioxins and mercury. This is a particular problem with chipboard/MDF coffins as they contain high quantities of toxic glues, and the handles are invariably made of plastic.
  • From a permaculture perspective, it also wastes the valuable resource of a body full of nutrients that can be utilised to improve soil fertility and grow trees.

So essentially cremation wastes a lot of valuable and increasingly scarce resources in turning all the wonderful nutrients in your body into toxic pollution. A sad legacy indeed!