Cremation Turns Up Heat on Funeral Industry

I read a recent article in Slate about the growing trend towards cremation instead of burial. This was no surprise to me, but some of the reasons behind the trend were. They include cost (cremations are roughly half the price of burials), a more mobile population (less connection to a particular town and its graveyard) and the one I’d expected, land use:

Third, concern over land use is helping tip the scales in favor of cremation. “The idea of taking up space in cemeteries when it could be used for other purposes is contributing to people’s decisions,” Nicodemus says. Some of the highest cremation rates are in ecofriendly coastal states like Hawaii (66 percent) and Washington (64 percent). In California, where SCI has a significant presence, more than half of 2005 deaths resulted in cremations.

It’s also interesting how much cremation rates differ across the US. They’re as high as 65% in Nevada, and as low as 10% in put-dem-in-da-ground-like-a-good-Catholic Mississippi.

Speaking of getting old and dying, Steve pointed to an interesting article discussing the assumptions we make about retirement.


  1. I suspect that increased secularization might also have something to do with it. If you’re non-religious like me, there seems little benefit (especially spiritual) and rather a lot of waste in a burial. (Though I’m sure cremation is rather energy-intensive.)

    I’ve specifically said that when I die — and since I’m having treatment for metastatic cancer, it isn’t necessarily only a distant possibility — I’d rather have it so that whatever can be donated, or used for medical research, or displayed in one of those Body World exhibits, is the way to go. Burn the rest.

    As for coffin makers, I’d rather they turn their skills to furniture that people can actually see and use.

  2. I’m all for scientific research, but I don’t know about Body Worlds, dude. That exhibit was highly creepy.

    I did read about a forensic school that has a fenced-off woodland where they leave bodies to rot, to study the process of decay. I wouldn’t mind donating my body there. It’s kind of nice to imagine my remains decaying while I lie under a tree, occasionally visited by students.

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