Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2016


In the late Nineteenth Century, doctors concerned with the unsanitary and crowded cemeteries of the time introduced cremation to the American public (Goetting). While these doctors were initially resisted by religious leaders, cremation eclipsed the popularity of burial over the following century due to its low cost, low direct land use, and its perception as more simple and sanitary than burial (“Why Cremation?”). However, the environmental cost of cremation is substantial and should not be overlooked when making death care decisions. In 2015, the United States emitted 55,000 tons of carbon into the atmosphere by cremating human remains (Knight 1), which is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide produced in running 7,500 average houses for a year (“Household CO2”). In order to lower the environmental impact of death care, the United States government must educate the public about postmortem options, implement a variety of measures to limit the carbon output of cremations, and advocate for green burial as the most environmentally friendly death care practice.


Winner of the First-Year Student Research Prize

Course: FYE 1600, First-Year Experience Climate Changed