Australian death rates are on the decline, while the average life expectancy is on the rise. Unlike other countries, Australia enjoys a growing low-density population on a vast expanse of land. Burial space is rarely an issue anywhere, since the real danger lies hidden and buried — away from our consciousness but done by our hands.
A Haphazard Tradition
The general appearance of most modern graveyards indicates a return to nature. The idea of loved ones’ remains becoming one with the earth once more is scientifically poetic, however impossible due to the coffins people use. Made of metal, plastic and hardwood, traditional coffins take centuries to break down completely.
Professionals from centenarymemorialgardens.com.au, a cemetery in Goodna, chalk this up to tradition. They note how the deceased will always come first, and a well-made coffin translates into that sentiment. Environmental impact will seldom cross people’s minds, especially ones stricken with grief.
Decay of a corpse will finish long before its container rots, preventing nutrients from cycling back into the soil while the coffin contaminates the ground. Not to mention the toxic embalming fluids inhibiting decay and posing a health risk by seeping through the soil.
A Greener Afterlife
When traditional burial sites become full, the land becomes unusable. The presence of chemicals deep underground, as well as intact coffins and corpses render the area uninhabitable by plant life. With memorials being a relatively recent aspect of human life, sustainable burial practices are ways off from being imperative. But, efforts to set a trend for greener, more responsible burials are never too early to start.
Placing the dead inside a 100% biodegradable coffin guarantees a complete cycle of decay. Avoiding the use of embalming fluid through immediate burial is healthy for both the planet and the bereaved. Cremations are equally harmful to the environment; releasing harmful toxins into the air even with the use of a double burner. Green burials for cremated remains may come as eco-friendly urns, or even cement mixed with the ashes for use as burial-at-sea artificial reefs.
A person’s legacy does not relate to the quality of their memorial. But, people want to give the final resting place of their loved ones well-deserved effort and attention. Burying lavish coffins and staging extended funerals are two ways people show their affection to the one they lost. At some point, however, people need to consider the planet’s future over the object they use in order to bury the past.