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Alternatives to traditional burial methods

Last Updated at May 18th 2022
While ground burials and cremation are the most common methods that people choose when deciding what will happen to their bodies after they die, there are a lot more alternative options popping up that can better represent you as a person and the legacy you leave behind after you die.

Key points:

  • Alternative burials options are different versions of your more traditional burial methods
  • There are multiple burial methods besides a traditional ground burial
  • Your ashes from a cremation can be repurposed in a number of ways to honour your memory
An urn at a funeral
There is a lot more alternative burial options available than ever before that can reflect your uniqueness when you lived. [Source: Adobe Stock]

These alternatives range from eco-friendly and sustainable burials to the outright wacky, creative and unique!

The great thing with these new alternative burial options is that you have more ways to honour your memory and can help your family remember you in the way that you lived.

Looking into these different options may provide you with alternatives you hadn't previously considered after your death.

Some of these alternatives include:

Donating your body to science

If you donate your body to science, it can be reassuring to know that your body will be used to assist further research and help teach the next generation of health professionals.

Donating your body to science can help cut down on costs, as many places, like universities or hospitals, that receive body donations will pay any cremation or burial costs once they have finished using your body for research.

However, your family may not receive any remains back for a number of years.

Additionally, even though you have elected to have your body donated, it doesn't necessarily mean your body will be accepted once you die. If that is the case, your family will need to figure out a funeral and different burial option to cover this change in plan.

If you choose this option, it needs to be arranged prior to your death, it is not a request that can be left in your Will and organised by your family afterwards.

Burial at home

If you want to get buried at your own home because it has significance to your life, like an important family farm, you will need to get approval from your local Council.

This option can be a bit difficult to organise as you cannot choose this option if you live in a city or if your property is not large enough for a body to be buried.

If you decide to scatter your ashes on your private property, this does not require any approval beforehand.

Burial at sea

A burial at sea is a unique option for people who love the ocean, but it can be incredibly costly and require permits to be able to undertake this type of burial.

Additionally, you will need to provide a reason for wanting to be buried at sea. People who have a "demonstrated connection to the sea" will be strongly considered, like people who worked for the navy or were fishermen may be keen to have this type of burial.

However, you can still receive a permit even if you don't have a special connection to the sea.

This form of burial requires quite a bit of documentation and the application itself also incurs a fee of just under $2,000. If approved, you will also need to pay for boat costs and body preparation fees, as there are very specific methods that need to be followed for the body to be prepared for a sea burial.

When you are buried at sea, your family will receive the coordinates of where you were buried so that they can return to the spot in the sea.

Natural or green burial

This form of ground burial can be both eco friendly and religious.

A natural burial, also known as a green burial, aims to reduce the amount of waste that would normally arise when organising a funeral, such as biodegradable coffins and avoiding harsh chemicals on the body.

Over time, your body and the casket you were buried in will break down and returned to the earth.

Many religions prefer a natural burial as it fits in with their religious and cultural beliefs, such as Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism.

These religions usually involve the use of a burial shroud on the bodies or shroud garments, however, these burials are only allowed in approved green burial sites in Australia.

Be buried in a mushroom "death" suit!

A new quirky burial option that hit headlines was being buried in a mushroom suit.

This mushroom suit aims to decompose your body more quickly than a natural burial as the suit has mushroom spores in the fabric.

Once the spores make contact with your own body, they will start to break down and digest your body naturally. As mushrooms are naturally great at cleaning toxins, this option is great for the planet!

While this suit is on sale, it may be harder to get your hands on in Australia and will set you back about $2,000.

Tree burials

A relatively new option for burials, it either uses the ashes of a cremated loved one in a biodegradable urn with a young seedling or involves having the body placed in a biodegradable pod and planting a seed just above the pod so the tree can use your body as nutrients to grow.

Tree burial companies have been popping up everywhere to provide these alternative ideas for burials and cremation.

Some of these companies that utilise cremation ashes provide the option to keep a miniature plant urn inside your house. Additionally, you are able to choose the tree type for your burial.

While there are very few memory or legacy forests in Australia, you can do the cremation tree burial on your own private property.

Water cremation

Compared to the traditional ground burial and fire cremation, water cremation can be a lot more eco-friendly.

A water cremation involves your body being placed in a steel unit that fills with water and an alkaline hydrolysis solution, which is then heated and will dissolve the body.

The family is then left with an urn that is full of water cremation "ashes".

Cremation jewellery

Another more creative option involves having your ashes turned into jewellery. The idea is to turn your loved one into a lasting memory or momentum for the family to hold on to.

Cremation jewellery has been around for decades and aims to honour their loved ones through wearable jewellery.

A few organisations can even turn your ashes or hair into diamonds, which then can be made into rings or necklaces.

Either the ashes can be incorporated in the making process of the jewellery, so the ashes are combined with the different components of the ring or necklace, or the jewellery can come with a special compartment to hold the ashes.

Another option for this jewellery involves adding the person's favourite flowers or herbs, crushed and dried, to the jewellery.

Memorial art and crafts

Similarly to cremation jewellery, art can be created from the ashes of loved ones.

You could potentially reimagine your older loved one into a sculpture, a glass memorial or glass jewellery. Some artists have even been able to create cremation ash paintings.

If you, or your older loved one, is artistic, this could be a great way to memorialise them.

Cremation tattoo

If you are looking for a permanent way to carry your loved one around with you are all times, why not get a cremation tattoo?

These tattoos include ink that has been infused with cremation ashes and will be injected into your skin permanently. You can choose a design that best represents the person you lost.

So a meaningful tattoo for a loved one who has passed can be more connected to that person.

What else is out there?

Burial options are becoming a lot more creative and can help make the idea of dying a lot easier to come to terms with.

It can be a good idea to discuss alternative options with a funeral director if you don't want to have a traditional burial.

Whether you want your ashes to be turned into 240 pencils, made into a vinyl of your favourite songs, or want to live your lifelong dream of going to space by having some of your ashes or DNA launched into deep space via a space burial (if you can afford it!), there are a lot of ways to honour your memory after you pass.

Of course, make sure you let your family and friends know what burial option you want before you pass and this should be reflected in your Will.

Do you know of any interesting burial alternatives? Let us know in the comments below.

Related Content:

Funeral planning: Considering burial options
Having a say in your own funeral
Creating a strong estate plan
Do I really need a Will and last testament?

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