You are currently viewing Cremation, Burial and Terramation: Which One is Right for You and Your Loved Ones?

Cremation, Burial and Terramation: Which One is Right for You and Your Loved Ones?

If you’re planning your death care, or death care for someone else, it’s likely you aren’t taking the decision lightly. There are no wrong choices, but there are a lot of variables that can impact the decision.  

While a traditional burial may seem like the most common choice, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) predicts by 2035 only 15% of people in the United States will opt for traditional burials. In the past, cremation and burials have been the two main options for death care. But, terramation is quickly becoming a more widely adopted death care option. 

Before making a decision, we suggest learning the costs, environmental impact, availability, religious considerations, and general pros and cons of a burial, cremation, and terramation. 


The Pros and Cons of a Burial

In 2021, 36% of folks in the United States chose a burial for their death care option. When someone chooses a traditional burial with a viewing, their body goes through an embalming process. Once embalmed, the body is dressed, placed in a casket, and buried in the ground at the end of their funeral service. 

Embalming is the preservation of human remains for public display through the use of a chemical mixture that delays decomposition and makes the body “look natural”.

Burials are available all throughout the United States, and the rest of the world. 

The Cost of a Burial

Burials are the most expensive choice for end of life care. The median funeral cost of a burial was $7,848 in 2021. This number can fluctuate depending on a handful of variables. Where the plot is located, the size of the plot, the type of casket, and the type of headstone can all increase or decrease the burial cost.  

The Environment Impact of Burials 

Many people may be wondering, what happens to bodies that are buried? The answer is, not much, due to the embalming process. Since embalming preserves the body, natural decomposition doesn’t take place.

While everyone deserves to be cared for after death in the way that they wish, it’s important to note the significant environmental impact of the burial industry. Each year, the cemetery industry uses 20 million feet of wood, 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluid, and 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete.

Religious Considerations for Burials

For those who are Jewish, Catholic, or Islamic, a burial is still compliant with religious traditions. All these religions believe burial practices should treat the body with reverence and keep the body intact. 

The Catholic Church decided in 1963 that cremation was not an ill way to treat the body. However, burials are still preferred. 


The Pros and Cons of Cremation

In 2021, 57.6% of the population in the United States chose cremation. 

To prepare a body for cremation, all medical devices, jewelry, and artificial limbs are removed. Then, the body is dressed in a gown, or their own clothes. Often, the body is embalmed. The body is set in a cremation container and placed in refrigeration until cremation. 

Loved ones can add easily perishable items inside the cremation container, but nothing that could combust. During cremation, the container burns with the body. Cremations include only one body at a time, and takes roughly 2 hours to turn to ash. 

One day later, the ashes are returned to the next of kin. 

This service is available throughout the US and the rest of the world. 

The Cost of a Cremation

Cremation is slightly more affordable than a burial, with a funeral and cremation on average costing $6,971 in 2021. 

Environmental Effects of Cremation

Cremations don’t have a positive impact on the planet. Like burials, there are fairly severe environmental consequences to the process. Each cremation uses around 30 gallons of fuel, and emits 540 lbs of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

Religious Considerations for Cremation

As mentioned, those who are Jewish, Catholic, or Isalmic may not find cremation to be a good fit due to the religious practice of keeping the body intact. 

In 1963, the Catholic Church decided cremation was an acceptable death care option but the church encouraged keeping the ashes in a columbarium. The ashes shouldn’t be scattered or kept in a private residence. 


The Pros and Cons of Terramation

Terramation included a very low percentage of the population in 2021 given 93.6% of people were cremated or buried. This is likely not because it was an undesirable choice, rather folks simply don’t know the option existed. 

While terramation is a new, legal option for burial in some states, it’s actually an organic process that would occur in nature – just at a different speed. 

There are four phases to the terramation process. 

Laying in: This is an opportunity to bid the deceased farewell. The person is laid on a straw, alfalfa, and sawdust bed inside a vessel. Family members can add organic, biodegradable, sentimental items during this step. The body is then covered with organic materials, and naturally occurring microbes begin to decompose the body. 

Terramation: The lid is closed and oxygen flows through the vessel to stimulate microbial activity. The temperature peaks at around 160 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature and with increased airflow, the body breaks down in 30-60 days.

Curing: The body is screened for inorganic materials, like hip implants, screws, or stents. Then, the soil sits to rest for an additional 30 days. 

Life grows on: The soil is then delivered to the person’s loved ones. A 200lb person, in addition to the organic matter added to their vessel, can generate one cubic yard of organic material.

The entire process takes around 60-90 days. One benefit during terramation is that families are able to spend additional time with their loved ones. Return Home is the only facility in the world to allow friends and family to visit their loved ones’ vessels during the terramation process.

This service is currently legal in Washington, Oregon, Vermont, and Colorado. If you reside in another state or Canada, Return Home is happy to arrange transportation to our facility.  

The Cost of Terramation 

The cost of a terramation is $4,950, making it a more affordable option compared to a burial or cremation. 

Environmental Impact of Terramation

While burials and cremation have a negative impact on the environment, terramation is one of the only options that gives back to the planet. The process is chemical free and a natural organic process that only uses organic materials and oxygen. Terramation also only uses 1/10 of the energy needed for cremation. 

Many folks who have chosen terramation become parts of beautiful memorial gardens or landscapes. As the law sees them identical to cremated remains, terramated remains can also be scattered at one of the person’s favorite places. 

It’s important to note that it is illegal for funeral homes to sell the soil or use the soil to grow food for human consumption. If the soil is unwanted, or only a portion of the soil is wanted, Return Home spreads the soil at the Woodland. This an 8 acre green belt dedicated to scattering terramated remains. These remains revitalize local flora and continue the life cycle.

Religious Considerations for Terramation

Terramation does keep the body intact during the terramation process. Those of several faith backgrounds, including the Jewish and Christian faiths, feel connected to our process as we let the body breakdown naturally with no hardware.

Terramation doesn’t have an official stance from the Catholic Church or from the Islamic community. It’s likely as terramation grows as a widespread death care option, we will get more clarity into how these religions view the process. 


There are No Wrong Death Care Choices, Simply a Right Choice for You and Your Loved Ones 

A burial is often the most expensive option for end of life care. It also doesn’t provide any benefits to the environment. It can be a good option for those with staunch traditional religious beliefs.

A cremation is more affordable than a burial, yet it also doesn’t provide any benefits to the environment; quite the opposite, actually! While it is accepted by the Catholic Church under specific conditions, religions like Catholicism, Judiasm, and Islam favor a burial over cremation. 

Terramation is the only death care option that doesn’t harm the planet, but rather gives back to it. It’s the most cost effective choice, but may not be right for individuals practicing certain religions. That said, it is one of the only disposition methods that allows the body to stay completely intact. 

While terramation has been one of the less popular options in recent years, 60.5% of individuals said they are interested in a green funeral option. It’s likely terramation popularity will only increase as it becomes legal in more states and awareness spreads. 

If you are interested in planning for terramation in advance, please fill out our pre planning form. If you’re in need of immediate assistance, call (206) 888 – HOME and one of our caring service team members will guide you through the next steps.

Leave a Reply