In the not-too-distant future, you could be cremated wrapped in banana leaves.
Between the down economy and consumers’ growing desire for “green” options, changes are afoot for the manufacturers of caskets designed to be burned in a cremation retort.
“It’s a changing field, and our members are responding with new products,” said Mark Allen, the Executive Director of the Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America (www.cfsaa.org), which represents suppliers to funeral homes. “Families that may not have considered cremation are looking at it now because of lower costs.”
The lowest cost option is to use a cremation container – essentially a cardboard box big enough to hold a body – and not purchase a casket. A memorial service or celebration of life could be held with the cremated remains, rather than a funeral with the body present.
The rental casket has been around for at least a decade. You rent the box, which is nice enough for presentation at a funeral, and the removable liner is taken out with the body and burned in the retort. Renting is less expensive than buying.
Hybrid caskets are cremation caskets designed to burn in a retort and still be appropriate for a more traditional viewing and funeral. They are essential made of wood particle press board with a veneer surface. It looks like solid wood but breaks down easily in the retort.
A solid wood casket is more expensive for a cremation, and it takes longer to burn. Soft woods such as pine or poplar will burn better than a hardwood casket, and soft wood caskets cost less.
Those who want to go green with their cremation can get a bamboo casket, a woven wicker container, or even be wrapped in bamboo leaves. But, as Allen points out, “That would still have to get the support of a funeral home or the individual crematory which can set its own standards.”
“There are preconceived images of a funeral, and we want people to know there are many meaningful options out there,” said Allen.