We’ve explored the history of cremation and the most current statistics for cremation today, now it’s time to look at what’s in store for the future of cremation. Given that the rate of cremation is expected to increase from 56% in 2020 to 78.4% by 2040, there is bound to be expansion and innovation.
Consumer trends, professional surveys, and data all make it clear that cremation is the new normal. If nothing else, normalcy means cremation is going to be a part of our lives for years to come.
More Crematoriums Replacing Traditional Funeral Homes
As more people choose cremation over burial, there has been a notable drop in the number of funeral homes across the country. Of those in service, only a third currently have an onsite crematorium, but that will likely change.
The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) projects that traditional burial will only account for 24.8% of services in 2030 and 16% in 2040. The downward trend holds true to what has been experienced over the last decade. The numbers suggest that the only way for many funeral homes to remain in business is to offer cremation services.
The more end-of-life preferences shift towards cremation, the more crematoriums there will be. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. By 2024 the number of crematoriums is expected to increase by 11%. Exactly what those crematoriums will look like and how they will operate is still to be determined.
In addition to adding onsite crematoriums, funeral homes are also expected to:
- Renovate funeral home properties to diversify the types of memorials that can be held.
- Accommodate outdoor memorial services.
- Increase the number of staff that are certified in crematory operation.
- Offer a greater variety of cremation services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced these trends. So if anything, the projections from 2019 could be conservative.
More Personalized Cremation Memorials
Another factor that has encouraged cremation is the memorial service. Many families feel that viewings and memorial services at the funeral home prior to a burial are too impersonal and don’t reflect who their loved one was and what they enjoyed in life. Funeral home memorials are an option with cremations, but the family can also hold a memorial service after the cremation wherever and however they want. The memorials often involve burying the remains or scattering them.
This is a fact that doesn’t escape funeral directors. As a result, consumers can expect to have more personalized memorial options regardless of whether they choose cremation or burial. Funeral directors will be more open to discussing unconventional services that incorporate the deceased’s interests and hobbies. They will deviate away from “standard” options in favor of customizable services. Funeral homes will offer outdoor and indoor spaces for a memorial.
Generally speaking, the cremation process will become more individualized and more families will consider a funeral home memorial if the director helps facilitate a personalized service.
More Cremation Options
For decades, modern-day cremation has been done pretty much the same way. A body is put into a chamber and flame is used to incinerate it leaving behind the bones. The bones are then ground into “ashes” and given to the family. Efficiency was always a factor, but earlier crematoriums didn’t have eco-consciousness in mind.
Today, cremation is the most popular end-of-life service for a number of reasons, one being that it’s lower impact compared to traditional burial. The eco-consciousness of American culture is set to drive innovation that makes cremation even greener.
Clean Flame Cremation
Cremation may be more eco-friendly than traditional burial, but many people are still concerned about the amount of energy that’s required to cremate a body. There are also concerns over the byproducts, namely smoke that can pollute the air.
Green Cremation Texas is among the few funeral homes in the country that have led the way on developing clean flame cremation. It’s an updated version of traditional cremation that lowers the overall impact.
Clean flame cremation isn’t just about the act of cremating. It entails indirect parts of the process like reducing physical paperwork in favor of online documents, planning out transport so that the eco-footprint is minimized and using recyclable cardboard vessels after the cremation. At every step in the process, energy efficiency is improved to offset the resources that are used to cremate.
Water cremation, also referred to as alkaline hydrolysis or aquamation, is the newest way to cremate. Instead of flame, a liquid solution that’s 95% water and 5% sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide is used to naturally decompose the body. Like flame-based cremation, only the bones remain and are crushed into “ashes” for the family.
A distinct difference between flame cremation and water cremation is the environmental impact. Given concerns over the environment, water cremation is already being dubbed the future of cremation. Unlike incinerating a body, alkaline hydrolysis doesn’t create airborne toxins and pollution. Water cremation also uses 90% less energy, and the byproduct liquid solution is non-toxic. It’s so safe it could be poured down a drain.
Currently, alkaline hydrolysis is approved for use in 20 states, but that number is expected to rise. There is a bill in Texas that would allow the process to take place in the state, and there have already been attempts to legalize water cremation in Indiana, Ohio and New Hampshire.
More Interest in Green Burial
One of the advantages of cremation is that families have a number of choices for what they can to do with the remains. For more than a third of families, burying the remains at a family cemetery plot or memorial park is the preference. Another option is green burial.
A 2018 survey revealed that over half of the respondents (51.6%) are open to green burial options. Another survey in 2015 conducted by the Green Burial Council found that nearly half of the people who plan to do a green burial might have chosen cremation instead.
Today the two can be combined to grow trees and natural vegetation. Instead of polluting the earth, a burial after cremation can encourage plant growth. This is possible through the use of special urns that ensure the soil remains healthy. Some even have seeds or saplings inside so that plants grow directly out of the urn. It’s a popular option that should expand in the coming years.
Religion is also playing a role in green burial after cremation. In the Roman Catholic Church, cremation is now allowed but only if the remains are buried in a cemetery afterward or kept in a “sacred place”. Other religions are beginning to alter their doctrines to allow for cremation as more people show a preference for it over traditional services. Given the new views on cremation, we expect to see more religions opening up to the idea and expanding how cremation is used. It’s also highly likely that religious leaders will then become more involved in cremation memorials and will become more vocal on how they believe cremations should be handled.
More Green Funeral Homes
If cremation has become more popular because of environmental concerns and green burial is now mainstream it’s only logical that more funeral homes will go green. Now that the NFDA has created a green funeral practices certificate program it’s all but certain. The criteria that qualify a funeral home for the program include:
- Green funeral packages
- Eco-friendly caskets and urns
- Temporary preservation options for open-casket viewings (as the law allows)
- Recent participation in green education programs
- Green responsibility plan
Unfortunately, any funeral home can call itself green. Consumers have to do their research to determine if a funeral home actually follows environmentally-friendly practices. The NFDA criteria above are a good benchmark for how green a funeral home actually is in practice.
At Green Cremation Texas, you can trust that our services are low-impact on the local environment. We are the first and only carbon-neutral funeral home in Texas. Our team has been at the forefront of the green end-of-life services movement for over 20 years, and we plan to continue leading well into the future. One thing we know is that the future of cremation is green.
Statistics. National Funeral Directors Association. July 18, 2019. https://www.nfda.org/news/statistics
Trends in the Funeral Service. National Funeral Directors Association. https://www.nfda.org/news/trends-in-funeral-service
More States Legalize Dissolving Bodies in Water. March 12, 2020. US News. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2020-03-12/more-states-legalize-alkaline-hydrolysis-dissolving-dead-bodies-in-water
By 2040, Nearly 80% Will Be Cremated — Why We Need to Start Talking About It. Forbes. August 30, 2019.
GBC Survey Results. Green Burial Council. 2015 https://www.greenburialcouncil.org/gbc_survey_results.html
Consumers Moving Past Tradition For Funerals, Survey Says. National Funeral Directors Association. October 15, 2019. https://www.nfda.org/news/media-center/nfda-news-releases/id/4703/consumers-moving-past-tradition-for-funerals-survey-says
The Vatican issues guidelines on cremation, says no to scattering ashes. CNN. October 25, 2016. https://www.cnn.com/2016/10/25/europe/cremation-vatican-scattering/index.html#:~:text=Rome%20(CNN)%20The%20Vatican%20announced,such%20as%20a%20church%20cemetery.