History and where are we today?
The origin of the funeral industry here in America dates back to early 1800’s. By the mid 1830’s, planned sprawling cemeteries inspired by innovative burial ground design out of Europe began cropping up in the rural outskirts of large cities. After the Civil War though, concern grew over land conservation and toxic waste coming out of these cemeteries. As a result, the turn of the century saw a cropping up of a large number of crematories and mausoleums within cemeteries. The beginning of the 20th century coincided with the process of embalming as a standard practice in the United States for preservation of the bodies. This standardized practice led to the “legitimizing” of the funeral industry. Funeral homes became respected businesses of the community, conducting rightful business transactions.
The past 20 years has seen a seismic shift in the funeral industry. As our lifestyles have changed so have our beliefs regarding the disposition of the bodies of our loved ones. According to the Cremation Society of America, in 1999 24.8% of families chose cremation, and by 2014 the rate was up to 46.7%. The projection by the National Funeral Directors Alliance is that by the year 2030 71% of bodies will be disposed of by cremation.
Why is cremation on the rise?
There are several reasons cremation is on the rise, not the least of which is the secularizing of America. Nearly 20% of our country is not connected to any religion. http://spectator.org/articles/34640/secularizing-america
With the religious constraints gone cremation is a viable option for many where it wasn’t in the past. Another reason for the shifting trend away from burial, is cremation allows for much more personalization in memorialization. With a swing away from the burial rituals that are rooted deep in tradition, loved ones are placing more value on the funeral as part of the grieving process. Individualization allows families an opportunity to highlight their deceased loved one’s passions, interests and life accomplishments- a meaningful celebration of their life.
Furthermore, gone are the days where families and extended family all stayed together in the same town. As families members are spread all over the country and even the world, the family burial plot is no longer practical nor desired. Cremation allows our more mobile culture to take their loved one’s cremains with them wherever in the world they are.
Lastly but perhaps the largest looming factor in cremation versus burial hinges upon our eco-conscious culture’s product and service purchasing habits. The death industry is affected by this as much as every other industry. The baby boomers that are currently the consumers of these products and services are wanting a minimalist approach to the funeral that they are preplanning for themselves or planning currently for their loved one. The green approach calls for the cloaking of the body in a cloth shroud and placing the body in a casket made out of a natural product such as wicker, bamboo or recycled paper, and putting it into the earth to degrade naturally. There is no toxic embalming fluid, non-biodegradable wood, concrete or metal.