Green Burials Are Forcing the Funeral Industry to Rethink Death

For 150 years, bereaved Americans have been embalming their dead, pumping them with formaldehyde, sealing them in metal caskets, and entombing them in vaults buried deep in the ground, enriching what’s now a $16 billion “death care” industry. But in the past decade, millions of baby boomers like Lavin have started to look for simpler, more eco-friendly funeral arrangements. A generation that embraced recycling, organic produce, and natural childbirth wants to die naturally, too—wrapped in shrouds, or woven caskets made from seaweed, or in a flesh-eating mushroom suit. A 2015 study by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council found that 64 percent of adults aged 40 and up said they would consider what’s called green burial, up from 43 percent just five years earlier.

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