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What You Need to Know About Traditional Funerals vs Cremation vs Eco-Friendly Burials

When considering these options, the advice of an expert can be invaluable

Two older adults speaking to a trusted advisor. Next Avenue
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End-of-life planning is a complex subject. There are so many different aspects of funeral planning to consider, and there are several different choices for each aspect of a funeral. Considering the importance of such a decision, it's not an easy task to be sure.

There are more choices to make seemingly every day. Historically, one of the biggest decisions you would have to make involved choosing a traditional burial or a cremation. Today, there's another option to consider: an eco-friendly burial. Here's what you should know about the differences between these three funeral arrangements.

Main Differences: Traditional, Cremation and Eco-Friendly Burials

Before we begin to discuss how traditional funerals, cremation and eco-friendly burials are different, it's helpful to establish what goes into each practice. The way the remains of the deceased are treated is the core difference in this case. In a traditional burial, those remains are often embalmed before being placed in a casket and then buried in a cement-lined burial vault.

Cremation incinerates the remains, leaving only ashes, which can then be kept by the family of the deceased, buried or interred or scattered. An eco-friendly burial looks more like a traditional burial than a cremation but for some significant differences: it focuses on having the lightest impact on the environment by not embalming remains and burying them in a biodegradable casket without the use of a vault.

Click here for a guide to eco-friendly burials.

More Differences: Relative Costs

Final expenses can add up, and for many families, the decision of the type of funeral to provide a loved one often comes down to cost. To be sure, the general cost of a traditional funeral can be quite high. The expenses that go along with preparing the body by embalming it, purchasing a standard casket and having a burial plot complete with a lined vault can be prohibitive for some.

Choosing cremation or even an eco-friendly burial is often a more affordable choice. Cremating means that there's no need to embalm remains. Likewise, the cremation urn, which is where the ashes are placed after the remains are cremated, is a much more affordable option than a casket and a burial plot. Even eco-friendly burials tend to be more affordable, as the lack of embalming, the use of a simple, biodegradable casket made from inexpensive materials and the lack of a burial vault all reduce the overall cost.

Click here to read how much does a natural burial cost?


The Environmental Impact of Each Method

Environmentally, the final disposition of the deceased does and will have its toll on the planet. While there has been some debate on the subject, it's widely considered that a traditional burial likely has the most negative impact on the environment. This impact is greater because of several different factors. First, preparing a body for embalming requires the use of potentially toxic chemicals that can leech into the soil after the body is laid to rest. Second, the resources needed to create and transport traditional caskets are relatively high. Additionally, the carbon emissions from creating the concrete necessary for a burial vault are significant. Finally, the amount of land used up by a burial plot is also an issue for some environmentalists.

Meanwhile, the two other types of funeral options are considered to have much less of an environmental impact than a traditional burial. There is some research being done into whether the carbon released into the atmosphere by cremation makes it a less attractive option, but the overall consensus is that the impact is still much less than a traditional burial. By the same token, an eco-friendly burial is likely to be the most sustainable, as the biggest contributors to ecological damage in the form of carbon emissions are both absent.

How Does Religion Factor into the Decision

For most people, choosing between a traditional funeral, a cremation or an eco-friendly funeral is a matter of personal preference or cost. However, there are some things to consider that go beyond just these aspects. Most of these considerations are more closely related to following the precepts of the religion of the deceased or their family, as not every type of burial may be as appropriate a choice as others.

A clear example of this is how, in Roman Catholicism, there are some important rules to follow if the deceased isn't going to be given a traditional funeral. The differences are most notable when it comes to cremation and Catholicism; there's no prohibition against cremation, but the cremains of a Catholic must be either buried or interred in a columbarium in a Catholic cemetery according to Church law.

Burial Types: What is Best for You

When it comes to deciding if a traditional burial, cremation or an eco-friendly burial is "better," the answer is never going to be a straightforward one. There are so many different factors that play into the decision, such as the deceased's wishes if known, the ability of the family to afford a specific type of funeral, any religious or cultural requirements and whether the environmental impact of the burial is important to the family.

In such instances, it's all right to not have all the answers yourself. Turning to those around you for support during difficult times, such as friends and family members, can offer perspectives that can help you make a more informed decision. Additionally, speaking with your funerary services director is likely invaluable, as their expertise in the processes that go into each type of burial will help you make the final decision, whether it's for yourself or for a family member that's passed on.

If you're doing your best to decide between a traditional burial, a cremation or an eco-friendly burial, there's no need to feel uncertain. Talk to the experts and receive the advice you need to make this important decision.

Want to learn more about traditional burials, cremation, and eco-friendly burials? Visit or read these articles:
By By StoneMor Inc.

Honoring your family is our life's work. As a family-first network of cemeteries and funeral homes, we aim to be an industry leader in celebrating and honoring a person's life in a way they want that story to be told., an on-line resource provided by StoneMor Inc., has everything you need to plan end-of-life services at both a time of at-need as well as in advance to secure the comfort of peace of mind.

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