If you've ever thought about becoming a tree after death, like the guy in the above video did involuntarily, perhaps you've worried about your survivors anthropomorphizing the sapling. That's a lot of pressure to put on a struggling plant.
After all, haven't you seen enough newly planted shrubs wither in your own yard to envision the worst sort of fate for Grandpa Robert's new life as a Ginkgo biloba?
And yet, the idea is still richly appealing — and quite in keeping with both the cycle of life and humanity's oldest funeral rites. The modern, Western funeral rite comes with both a hefty price tag and a significant environmental footprint.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral in 2014 (including viewing and burial) was $7,181. And, consequently, every 10 acres of cemetery grounds contains 40 houses' worth of coffin wood, 1,000 tons of casket steel, 20,000 tons of vault concrete and enough toxic chemicals to fill a swimming pool.
Even cremation (2014 cost of $6,078), which has finally surpassed burial as the most popular American funeral rite, leads to carbon emissions and mercury pollution from tooth fillings, to say nothing of the fuel costs.
And so we're left with a host of new "green" burial alternatives that harken back to the old ways — some with a high-tech design twist. For example, there's Promession, created by Swedish company Promessa Organic AB. Basically, they freeze a corpse with liquid nitrogen, shatter the remains, spin the resulting shards through a vacuum chamber (evaporating all the water) and you're left with an easily disposed powder.
It's not the divine eloquence of Tibetan sky burial, but it'll do.