Thinking outside the box: 6 alternative burial ideas

Apr 24, 2021
Auckland-based Dying Art creates customised and wildly creative caskets. Source: Facebook/@DyingArt

Cremation and burial have long been our only ways of farewelling our physical bodies, but the 21st century has brought us a few new and definitely unique options worthy of considering. Whether you’re looking for a more eco-friendly option, a bespoke casket or a chance to be revived in years to come, we’ve found some alternative ways to send yourself out in style.

Cryonics

If you love the idea of one day coming back from the dead, this truly futuristic method might be for you! Straight from a sci-fi movie, cryonics involves freezing someone without damaging any tissue, in the hope they can one day be revived using future medical technology.

While the logistics of reviving someone are still being researched, an Australian company called Southern Cryonics is working to open a facility that will be able to house up to 40 bodies at a time for 500 years into the future. The opening has been delayed due to Covid-19, but they hope to launch the facility later this year. Once completed, Australia will become just the third country in the world where bodies can legally be frozen. All you need to do is fork out a cool $150,000 to sign up for a post-death deep freeze.

Liquid cremation

If you could be melted down into a liquid and poured onto your favourite houseplant, would you be interested? While it might sound like something out of a true-crime documentary, the process involves placing a body in a large stainless-steel container that gently fills with water and an alkaline solution. The container is then heated for approximately four hours until only liquid remains. The remains are then given to the family in an urn, similar to cremation.

This alternative to cremation is also known as alkaline hydrolysis or aquamation and is a relatively new technology that is currently available to families from Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and South Australia. It’s being heralded as a more eco-friendly burial alternative, which produces less than 10 per cent of the carbon emissions of fire cremation. Water cremation also produces much fewer carbon emissions than a standard burial.

Promession

If being melted isn’t your cup of tea, how about being frozen by liquid nitrogen and shattered into a fine powder? This one is still a conceptual idea developed by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, who derived the name from the Italian word for “promise”. The concept behind promession is to freeze bodies using liquid nitrogen. Once frozen and brittle, the bodies are shattered by a short ultrasonic vibration until the body is reduced to a form of powder that is then packaged into a box or urn.

The concept has faced some resistance in the US after a judge in Kansas ruled that it didn’t fit the legal definition of cremation and hence wasn’t legal. Despite this ruling, Promessa Organic, the company behind promession, hopes to secure a full launch in America by 2025, though there’s no word yet when Australians can enjoy the unique technology.

The Promessa Organic website promises a raft of benefits if this alternative is legalised, including reducing your carbon footprint, offering a positive benefit to the Earth, and eradicating Covid-19 and SARS viruses from your remains.

Burial at home

Spending your final days resting on your own land is a dying wish for many, and it is a possibility if you meet the eligibility requirements. These are a little more tricky to organise and you will need to ensure you go through the correct avenues to meet the legal stipulations.

To bury a body on private land, you need to get the relevant approvals, and the property you wish to be buried on must be larger than five hectares. The council will usually survey the land and will not allow burial in an area where it has the potential to pollute a domestic water supply. Home burial does allow you the option of going chemical-free — meaning you won’t be embalmed — however, there are more restrictions on the depth of the grave if you choose this option.

The rules are different for each state, with NSW and SA requiring approval from the local authority, while in Victoria an application must be made to the Health Department. Check with your individual council for more information.

Sea burials

Burials at sea are also a possibility but are regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), and are usually quite expensive. You will require a sea-dumping permit, and the body must be in a heavy shroud and not a coffin.

Getting a permit to bury a loved one at sea is a little trickier than a home burial. Generally, permits will only be granted to those with a demonstrated connection to the sea, such as long-serving navy personnel or fishermen. If you’re hoping to have your remains buried at sea, the DAWE website recommends making your wishes known in your will, which allows your family to provide sufficient justification for such a burial.

The burial location itself must not conflict with other marine users and must be at a depth greater than 3,000 metres, which means it is often located a long way offshore.

Bespoke caskets

If the above ideas are a little too out-of-the-box but you’re still looking for a way to show off some final creative flair, a man in New Zealand has exactly the option for you. Auckland-based Dying Art was established in 2003 by Ross Hall, who wanted to offer custom, colourful coffins. Hall provides customised casket services to help family and friends celebrate the life of their loved ones in a truly personal and unique way. From firetruck caskets for retired firemen to nautical-themed yacht coffins, there’s no doubt your final day above ground will be memorable. Check out more of his amazing work via the Dying Art Facebook page.

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Will you be opting for a traditional burial or something a little more unique?

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