Rethinking the traditional memorial: funerals of tomorrow and beyond.

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.

What is a green burial?
Green burial. A green what? green burial, you read it right.

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.

For those who are super green, watch out for a very new concept known as “human composting”, on its way from overseas.
Oh me oh my!! It’s a real thing!

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.

Photo shows the first burial as a group tours the Kokosing Nature Preserve after the dedication of the preserve in Gambier, Ohio. (Eamon Queeney/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

If Green burials are not for you….

What about if you wanting to be 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).

Ok, so what is next for burials? Modern Cemeteries!
Modern Cemeteries are being built with new constructions to be as space-efficient as possible with an ever-growing population, cemeteries often utilising the latest technology to do so.

Here are some examples: Locally, in Woronora in Sydney’s south, one modern cemetery was built in recent years to make use of relatively new geopolymer concrete, using prefabricated grave sites that share walls rather than being separated. Instead of being separated by soil in the traditional way, the water-resistant geopolymer concrete walls about each other, much like terrace houses. Interment will be faster and the maintenance cost less. The geopolymer concrete is also better for the environment than other concrete by emitting 80per cent 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, with 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 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.

We have looked at some mind-boggling alternatives for burials but what about Cremation memorials.

What do I do with ashes or cremated remains?
Personally, I want to be compressed into a diamond and handed down through my family; I have this dinner party conversation that always comes up in my life but the reality is the more I work in the funeral industry the more I see the options are endless. Out there I know but welcome to the New-age of Cremations!

The opportunities are boundless, so let’s look at some of the things you can do with ashes from the functional to mindboggling far-out.

I can have ashes placed into an urn, become a tree by planting them in a beautiful biodegradable urn or Capsula Mundi, scattered at sea, sent into space, mixed with concrete to build artificial reefs, compressed into diamonds, added to a pocket watch or jewellery, mixed with tattoo ink, or used inside an hourglass; one idea that’s proven particularly widespread is the idea of having 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.

I could always go out with a bang and have my ashes made in fireworks but the reality is important conversations about the choices 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.

NB: It is important to check with any local council and authority regarding the planting of ashes and obviously the use of fireworks differ from state to state.