Cemeteries Effect on the Environment

Cemeteries, as we know them today, first started to emerge in the 1830s. When they were first created there is little if any regard for how they would affect the environment. On the surface, cemeteries seem completely harmless, but in reality, cemeteries have long-term harmful effects especially on the environment.

  1. Seepage Waters

Seepage waters occur when liquid or gas leaks through tiny holes in a container or barrier. This can cause a lot of issues for people. Seepage can cause unstable ground and infrastructure damage. It can also cause environmental damage as seepage may mix with groundwater and become a risk for environmental pollutants.

2. Caskets Don’t Decompose Quickly

Old caskets were made completely from wood and decomposed in 5 to 20 years. While that is still a very long time, modern caskets take significantly more time. Lower quality modern caskets take at least 80 years to decompose while higher quality ones take up to 125 years to decompose.

3. Cemeteries Take Up a Lot of Land

While there is no exact amount of land that Cemeteries took up, we can estimate that it is about 140,000 acres of land in the United States alone. These acres of land have extremely few trees if any, and the only other plant there is grass which produces more CO2 than it takes in. Essentially taking away available land, and contributing to the extreme excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

4. Deforestation for More Cemeteries 

Graves are technically never supposed to be dug up and cemetery companies need to keep finding new land for new graves. The exact number is unknown, but every year land gets cleared just for cemeteries, directly contributing to deforestation.


Even though traditional burials and cemeteries are harmful to the environment, there are more eco-friendly alternatives.

  1. Green Burial

It looks very similar to a traditional burial but lacks the parts that harm the planet. There are no toxic chemicals used such as embalming fluids, the grave is dug by hand, there is no cement plot, and only biodegradable caskets are used.

2. Sea Burial

Mimicking the traditions of Vikings, naval officers, and even pirates, a sea burial gives a very eco-friendly option to people. Water-soluble urns and caskets are available, allowing the body to completely decompose in the water.

3. Aquamation

Aquamation, also known as water cremation or alkaline hydrolysis, is where the body is placed in a stainless steel vessel filled with a solution of 95 percent and 5 percent potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. The combination of the alkaline waters and 350 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures cause the body to dissolve, similarly to what happens if a body is left on earth or in a stream. 

4. Tree Burial

Tree burial is when an egg-shaped pod contains the person’s ashes or body, which then provides nutrients to the tree planted above you. When this tree is planted it can never be cut down, unless they fall on their own or they cause a threat to the surrounding area.

Sources:

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/108132/?sequence=1

https://www.sacredspacememorial.com/caskets-do-coffins-decompose

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/513564/7-eco-friendly-options-your-body-after-death

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/513564/7-eco-friendly-options-your-body-after-death

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