Rethinking the traditional memorial: Modern & Innovative funerals

Funeral memorials and rituals have evolved over time and will continue to do so with technology, environmental sustainability and other societal forces impacting the industry. In our previous blog, we explored the history of funeral traditions and rituals, exploring mummification and the evolution of funerals as a profession.

In this article, we take a look at the alternative practices replacing the traditional burial, ceremony and cremation practices.

Green or Natural Burials

What is a green burial?

A green burial is a final way of giving something back to the planet that has sustained you for so long. Ultimately, a green burial is a lot more about representing a person than making a real environmental difference.

Nature lovers, keen gardeners and those considering the eco-friendly movement might choose a wicker or natural fibre coffins and plant-filled resting place as a better fit than a traditional coffin and traditional ceremony. It is worth mentioning there are a lot of laws and regulations around burial processes, so green burials are still more similar to traditional burials than they are different, although the funeral industry is always evolving and changing over time.

Human Composting

For those who are super green, watch out for a very new concept known as “human composting”, on its way from overseas.

With global ideas fluctuating from the functional to the truly mind-boggling and far out; think of this human composting as a way of evading the middleman and giving yourself back to the planet more directly. Multiple companies are attempting to pioneer this movement, which is currently largely based in the UK, Europe and the US; for more information on this radical movement check out Infinity Burial Suit, Urban Death Project and Promessa Organic Company.

Preserve Yourself With Cryonics

If natural burials are not for you, what about being put on ice? Cryonics!

If you, wanted to stay in stasis just in case death is ever curable then this is for you and it looks like Australia is the head of the game. This is one area of death and technology where Australia could be among the world’s first customers.

The town of Holbrook in NSW is soon to host a cryonics facility run by Southern Cryonics. Customers will be able to freeze their bodies for an estimated cost of around $90,000 (AUD).

Are Modern Cemeteries The Future of Burial Ceremonies?

Modern Cemeteries are being built with new constructions to be as space-efficient as possible with an ever-growing population. Cemeteries are utilising the latest technology to do so.

Locally, Woronora in Sydney’s south recently built a modern cemetery to make use of relatively new geopolymer concrete, using prefabricated gravesites that share walls rather than being separated. Instead of being separated by soil, the water-resistant geopolymer concrete walls touch each other, much like terrace houses. As a result, interment will be faster and the maintenance will cost less. The geopolymer concrete is also better for the environment than other concrete by emitting 80% less carbon dioxide when it is made.

Internationally, another example is the Yarkon Cemetery in Israel, which takes a more severe approach to conserve land, using tiered burial grounds rising several storeys high. While the idea may seem odd to some, vertical cemeteries already exist where populations are dense and land is scarce, such as in China, Japan, Egypt and even New Orleans, where high waters make burial difficult.

Brazil is home to the world’s tallest vertical cemetery, the Memorial Necropole Ecumenica in Santos, which is 32 stories high, it houses thousands of graves, wake rooms, a garden, chapel and even a snack bar. In India, the Moksha Tower building will be split up into different sections for the four main religions practised in Mumbai and will be even taller.

In many Asian cities, where populations are ageing and increasing in density, planners are designing the cemeteries of the future to be compact and high-capacity.

In Hong Kong to aid with population supply and demand of cemeteries, a local design firm has drawn up plans for a sea-borne cemetery called ‘the Floating Eternity.’ This floating cemetery could potentially house the remains of several hundred thousand deceased residents. This is truly a brave new world!

Plans for floating cemeteries drifting along Hong Kong’s coastline could be the solution to the country’s lack of land space and aging population.

The future for cremated memorials

What can I do with ashes or cremated remains?

Personally, I want to be compressed into a diamond and handed down through my family; but the options are endless:

  • Have your ashes placed into an urn
  • Become a tree by planting them in a beautiful biodegradable urn
  • Scatter your ashes at sea, or space, as Capsula Mundi
  • Mixed ashes with concrete to build artificial reefs
  • Compress ashes into diamonds
  • Add ashes to a pocket watch, jewellery or inside an hourglass
  • Mix ashes with tattoo ink
  • Have your ashes pressed into a vinyl record, the record can be of anything you want, from bird sounds to your favourite song, multiple copies for multiple people.
  • Turn your ashes into fireworks and go out with a bang!

Of course, many of these are out there ideas that only a select few might consider. The reality is that the important decision of where to go after-life, and how to get there, is completely up to you as an individual.

Take the time to have the discussions with family and friends now as funerals of the future are here to stay and they offer near limitless options.