If I don’t get the Island Reef Job, I can always be buried there…
Welcome to the Great Burial Reef! That’s right–if I don’t get the Island Reef Job, I can get eventually get a job AS the reef! One eco-friendly burial method does just that–uses your remains to rebuild damaged natural coral reefs! This would have been so perfect for my grandpa, the deep sea diver, who instead had his cremains scattered at sea by the Neptune Society. The pay’s not great, but the benefits are awesome. Just not for you.
According to CNN, “Death is becoming less of a dark matter than a green one. Dying is arguably the most natural phenomenon in the world, but modern death rituals — embalming with formaldehyde-based solutions and traditional burial in concrete vaults — are not nature-friendly, according to environmentalists.”
Along with its dead, the United States buries 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, 827,060 tons of toxic embalming fluid, 90,000 tons of steel (from caskets), and 30 million tons of hardwood board each year, according to the Green Burial Council, an independent nonprofit organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“We can rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge with that amount of metal,” said Joe Sehee, the council’s executive director. “The amount of concrete is enough to build a two-lane highway from New York to Detroit.”
In order to reduce carbon emissions, waste and toxins in the death care industry, people are utilizing burial to steward natural areas in the U.S. according to Joe Sehee.
“We’re the surf and turf of natural burial,” said George Frankel, CEO of Eternal Reefs. The company takes the green movement to sea level by offering a living legacy in the form of underwater reefs used to create new marine habitats for fish and other sea life. The artificial reefs are cast from a mixture of environmentally safe cement and cremated remains.
A brass plaque helps identify remains on the reef which can be visited by scuba diving.
“These reefs will be covered up with sea life in a very short period of time, so they make a significant contribution,” Frankel said. The reefs last about 500 years, and so far about 300 have been dropped off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia.
An eco-friendly funeral can also help conserve land and protect it from development. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working with the Green Burial Council to become the first state-park agency to offer cremation-based green burials. The funds raised from the services will be used to acquire new state park lands.
Hype or no hype, the decision is a personal one that ultimately rests with an individual or family. Sehee emphasizes that the Green Burial Council is careful not to diminish anyone’s choices or make recommendations about the greenest way to go. “There are shades of green and people can distinguish one shade from another,” he said.
More eco problem solving: In Depth: Solutions