The dark economic climate hasn’t stop people from dying. But it is dissuading people from spending too much on the accoutrements of the afterlife. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that the death industry is significantly scaling back as more people turn to cheaper alternatives, including cremation.
According to the newspaper, headstone and monument sales are down as much as 15 percent since 2007. From tombstones to coffins to cemeteries, Americans are rethinking their death rituals and making more cost-friendly choices. Doy Johnson is the executive vice president of the Elberton Granite Association. As he told the AJC, “Before, if you had a $25,000 insurance policy on Uncle Bob, you would spend every dime to make sure he had a good funeral and the biggest monument possible. In today’s economy, when Uncle Bob passes away, chances are you’ll spend $750 on cremation and put the other $24,250 in the bank.”
Cremation has been slow to catch on in the traditional South. As the AJC reports, 14 percent of Georgians are cremated as opposed to the 36 percent rate for all Americans. But the cheaper cost of a cremation is changing that statistic. Cremation costs $1,650 on average, including an urn and some extras. A traditional funeral costs $7,775, and this is without a cemetery plot, headstone or flowers. Stan Rogers runs the four cemeteries of Rome, Ga. As he told the AJC, “Here in the Bible Belt we’ve got old-timey families that just don’t get that concept of cremation. I’m considering it. When I pass my soul won’t be here anyways. Cremation just speeds up the process.”
Inadvertently, rethinking costs is enabling some to make more eco-friendly choices for their afterlife needs. Less land is being sold for cemetery plots. Less people are being embalmed in toxic fluids while buried in caskets Neoprene caskets. However, cremation can still be a toxic process, as it can still release chemicals such as carbon dioxide and mercury into the atmosphere. People considering cremations are encouraged to look for facilities that use more efficient burners and to consider coffins that are plastic and chipboard-free. They can also consider “bio-cremation,” which uses an alkaline process to dissolve a body completely.
Then there are “green burials.” Green burials don’t use concrete vaults, metal coffins or chemicals. People are interred in hybrid cemeteries that provide traditional and nontraditional graves, or they can consider to a natural burial ground that prohibits the use of chemicals.
Ultimately, some green burials can show the deceased’s quirky side. Sunset Hills funeral home in Eugene, Ore., offers customers a bike hearse to transport a green coffin from the funeral home to the cemetery. And finally, William Warren’s Shelves for Life offer the living a chance to enjoy their coffin before death. It’s a bookcase that can be reshaped into an eco-friendly coffin at the appropriate time.
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