What most Americans know as a “traditional” burial takes a big toll on our environment, so what should we do with our bodies when we die? Find out on this episode of One Small Step.

A traditional burial in the United States consists of embalming fluid, a wood or steel coffin, and a cement or stone marker for the grave. Roughly 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluid are used in U.S. burials each year and some of the harsh chemicals used, like formaldehyde, do evaporate before burial. But some of it does go into the ground putting potential drinking water at risk, particularly in the first year after the burial.

Not to mention, workers who are exposed to formaldehyde have higher rates of rare cancers than the general population. And cremation isn’t any better for the environment, the 1.4 million cremations reported in 2017 emitted the same amount of carbon dioxide that approximately 52,000 cars emit in a year.

So, what are the options for our bodies post mortem? A green burial is a way of caring for the deceased that is natural, and has as little environmental impact as possible. There are 93 registered green burial sites in the U.S today, and many of them are natural conservation sites or wooded areas, though you can have a green burial at a traditional cemetery as well. In 2018, 54% of Americans considered a green burial over a traditional burial.

Choosing a green burial means a lower carbon footprint and no chemicals or toxic substances buried in the Earth.