Cremation Rates: The Effect of Environmental Issues
The cremation rate is increasing for many reasons, and environmental issues are one of them. Find out how big of an impact the environment has on cremation.
Cremation Rates: The Effect of Environmental Issues

We’re continuing our series on what’s impacting cremation rates by taking a closer look at one of the biggest influencers. For many people today, the deciding factor for choosing cremation is the impact body disposition has on the environment. 

Every day there’s more news on the dire state of our environment. Study after study has made it clear that the climate is changing and humans can either make the situation worse or start making changes to reverse course. For many people, those changes include what happens to them after their death.

How Important is the Environment When People Make Funeral Arrangements?

In recent years a number of surveys have been conducted to gauge not only what people’s body disposition preferences are but why they have those preferences. One clear trend is that significantly more people plan to be cremated than buried. The latest survey results from Choice Mutual note that 44% people want to be cremated while only 35% want a traditional burial. 

While the Choice Mutual survey doesn’t list environmental concerns as a reason for choosing cremation, 47% of respondents said personal beliefs played the biggest role. Those beliefs don’t refer to religious beliefs, which were a separate category. Personal beliefs include concerns about the environment among other things. 

Other surveys make environmental concerns more clear. The Cremation Association of North America reported way back in 2005 that 13% of people who prefer cremation do so for land conservation reasons. And the National Funeral Director Association’s 2019 Cremation and Burial Report revealed that perceived environmental impact was one of the top reasons for the rise in cremations.

Not surprisingly, a study from the University of Kansas that surveyed environmentalists over the age of 60 years old found that their death care choices were driven largely by concerns about the impact body disposition has on the environment.

Death Care Environmental Concerns Across Generations

What’s particularly telling about these surveys is that they mainly involved older Americans. The Baby Boomer generation isn’t known to be the most environmentally aware generation, yet they still cite environmental impact as a top consideration for choosing cremation.

When you focus on younger generations the trend is even stronger. Death positive Millennials are having a significant impact on the funeral industry as a whole, and one of their driving motivators is environmentalism. 

And this isn’t just a factor in funeral planning. Millennials are so concerned about their environmental impact 73% are willing to pay more for a product if it’s sustainable. This suggests that even the top concern of cost could be outweighed by environmental concerns when Millennials are planning their own funeral. Given that Millennials are more open to alternative body disposition methods that are sustainable but not necessarily the cheapest option further supports that for many younger people the environment is a big factor.

Want to know what other factors are affecting the rate of cremation? Check out the rest of our series that covers how migration trends have impacted cremation, the influence of rising costs and why religious shifts are impacting cremation.