Climate Friendly End of Life Options: Ending in the Green


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People are becoming more interested in aligning their financial goals with their values. There are many ways to achieve this, including choosing investments that emphasize environmental, social, and governance factors, shopping sustainably, and donating to charities that support the causes you care about.

People who are driven to reduce their carbon footprint might already be taking steps to lower greenhouse gas emissions during their lifetimes. It is becoming more possible to minimize the footprint after we have gone.

It is important to review your estate documents (trusts, powers-of-attorney, wills) to ensure your assets are passed to those you care about. This helps to minimize tax costs and avoid potential conflicts. It’s odd that, while we all write down what we want to happen with our stuff, many of us don’t actually make it official.

Although some attorneys don’t want to include our final disposition or, more simply, what happens to our bodies after we die, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t plan for our remains. It’s possible for something to become a source of contention so make sure you write down your preferences for burial or cremation, funeral services at a specific institution, or celebration of life. These wishes don’t need to be included in your estate documents. However, keep them somewhere your heirs will find them. Or better yet, prepay your final expenses before you die.

For environmentally-focused folks, there are a few ways of disposing of your remains that will minimize the negative impact on the Earth. Think about how American burials leave behind millions of gallons worth of toxic embalming fluid, millions of tons steel, copper, and bronze in the ground every year, as well as millions of feet of casketwood, some of which is from forests. It is not surprising that almost 60% of Americans choose cremation despite the fact that each cremation emits 600 pounds of carbon dioxide and burns fossil fuels. This is equivalent to a 500-mile drive. The US produces around 360,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from cremations. This is roughly the equivalent of the annual emissions from 45,000 homes.

Alternative disposition options are constantly being explored and may be available depending on where you live. These are some of the most popular green options for traditional burial or cremation.

Alkaline Hydrolysis

Alkaline hydrolysis, also known as water cremation, uses water for eight hours to dissolve the remains. This is a faster process than if the remains were buried in the ground. The ashes and bones of organic material are converted to ash, and then returned to the family.

Traditional cremation costs around $1,500, while water cremation costs around $3,500. It is still cheaper than traditional burial, which can run close to $10,000.

Water cremation is about 90% more energy efficient than traditional cremation and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 35%. This procedure is available to pet remains, and it has been made law in some states. Find out where your state ranks on aquamation .

Natural Organic Reduction

The process of natural organic reduction or human composting converts human remains to soil. The body is transformed into fertile soil by naturally occurring microbes and oxygen. This soil cures for between two and six weeks. A single body can produce approximately one cubic yard of soil, which is then returned to the family. In some cases, you may choose to donate it to a project for forest restoration.

Human composting is legal in Washington, Oregon and Colorado. It requires only 12% of conventional methods and can be used as a supplement to the health of other living organisms. It costs approximately $7,000.

Green Burial

If you don’t want to put hazardous embalming fluid in the ground, green burial is the best option. It also minimizes the use of wood, concrete, or other resources that are energy-intensive. This involves ground burial using a biodegradable shroud, or another eco-friendly container over the body. It is not a coffin or concrete vault.

Green burials are allowed in most states, but individual cemeteries might not allow them. Some cemeteries allow traditional and green burials on their grounds. The average cost is between $1,000 and $4,000. From a carbon footprint perspective, green burial is neutral to slightly positive.


It is hard to think about our mortality. There are many factors that can influence how we want our remains to be handled. No one answer is right. However, if you have made financial decisions throughout your life that impact your financial future, then you can still uphold those values at your end of life.

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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