Cremation or Burial?
The question of cremation or burial is best asked before death, while pre-planning final needs. This is a highly personal question, with factors rooted in cost, environmental impact, and religious beliefs. When an individual has not expressed a preference prior to death, the family must evaluate each of these factors and decide the best option based on lifestyle, finances, and what they guess the deceased would have wanted.
The High Cost of Burial Favors Cremation
Burial is expensive, and the price keeps going up as space becomes more limited. Depending on the part of the country, the cost of a burial plot ranges from around $2,000 to over $25,000. Size, location, cemetery, and availability all play a role. Traditional burial also requires a casket, with a cost starting around $1,000 and rising quickly from there; a burial vault, that ranges from around $500 to over $5,000 depending on the materials; a grave marker; the cost to open and close the grave; and the cost for perpetual care of the grave site. With all these factors, traditional burial costs start at $3,500 and can be substantially higher. Many families spend between $10,000 and $20,000 for a basic funeral and traditional burial, but the cost easily skyrockets.
By comparison, cremation is a vastly more affordable method of handling the remains of a loved one. Cremation is a fraction of the cost of a traditional burial, a significant reason why more and more families are turning to it today.
Cremation is More Environmentally Friendly
Cost isn’t the only factor that is compelling more families to move toward cremation. An increasing number of people are turning toward cremation because it’s more environmentally friendly than traditional burial. Some historic burial grounds have remains stacked one atop another in graves, with as many as eight people stacked in a single plot. Highly developed urban cities, such as New York and Boston, face a serious shortage of burial space. More and more people in these areas are turning to cremation to avoid contributing to this issue.
Land use is a serious concern with traditional burial. Cremation may create a higher carbon footprint at the time of the procedure, but the land use implications of burial in a single plot outweigh the cremation carbon footprint concerns long-term.
A Religious Perspective on Cremation and Burial
For some, in addition to financial and environmental perspectives, the question of cremation or burial has religious implications. Views on cremation vary by religion. Eastern Orthodox Jews are prohibited from practicing cremation, as are some Fundamentalist Christian denominations. Islam also prohibits cremation. The Catholic Church, however, has permitted cremation since the 1960s. Many of the more progressive religions do not have a view on cremation and leave it up to the individual and his or her family. Those with religious questions about cremation should speak with their spiritual advisors to determine a possible taboo against cremation.
Ultimately, the question of cremation or burial is highly subjective. In the absence of personal objections, however, cremation is a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly option than traditional burial.