Human Waste (Literally)

Just to warn everyone, this possibly a very morbid post. After our debate this past week, what struck me the most was the idea that some of the greatest sources of waste are those that we do not even consider. When researching “necessary” vs. “unnecessary” waste, one thing I noticed was that the existence of graves is actually a major environmental intrusion.

We tend to picture cemeteries as serene landscapes with the gravestones themselves as the only human intrusion into an otherwise beautiful place. Families often treasure the experience of being able to visit the site where past generations have been buried. Unfortunately, however, when we look beneath the surface, cemeteries not quite as pristine.

Throughout history and even today, cemeteries have required that graves include a casing or lining for the grave itself. These casings are generally made from concrete and can include materials such as plastic, steel, or copper. This structure is designed to prevent the ground from caving in as the coffin decomposes, however, the result is a structure that is not meant to be part of the environment and which will not biodegrade easily. And this is not even including the materials that individuals are buried with such as jewelry, glasses, etc. For me, this is really sad irony. My grandpa passed away about a year ago and was buried in a traditional way. However, he really enjoyed nature and spent most of his retirement working with groups to restore unused railroad tracks to bike trails. I think he would be upset to realize how his grave would impact the surrounding environment.

One company has developed an interesting solution to this dilemma, known as Bios Urns. Bios Urns are a lot like typical urns which contain an individual’s ashes and are buried in a chosen area. These urns however, are described as biodegradable and contain a tree seed and a prepared soil mixture to assist in growth. As a result, an individual is essentially able to use their body to grow a tree while preventing construction of another grave-site.

I love the idea of using Bios Urns as an alternative to traditional burial. There are many faiths where cremation is not acceptable, however, many do allow it. If even half of the individuals in our generation chose options such as Bios Urn, we could make a significant impact on our environment.

Bios Urn Website:

Article on Graves:

-Alexis Wilsey


4 thoughts on “Human Waste (Literally)

  1. This was a very interesting post! I had no idea that something like Bios Urns even existed and I personally think that it’s a great idea. In the past I have thought about the decomposition process that takes place after a traditional burial, but never to this extent or how that would have a negative impact on the environment. This way, we are preventing future problems but also allowing for new life to grow.

    Colleen Crawford


  2. I had never really thought about the effects of graveyards on the environment, pretty eye opening. The bio urns are a pretty cool idea, bringing life back from death in a sense.
    Emily Weglage


  3. I really liked this post! I have heard about these bios urns and I think they are such a great idea. I wonder if the rest of the world thinks so? Where I’m from there are about 5 cemeteries in a 5 minute radius of each other. Think about all of the new trees that could be planted there and stop the unnecessary polluting of the earth. I know I will definitely be looking into this for my future.

    Gabby Hirlinger


  4. I think this is really cool. I’ve never really thought about the impact of graveyards on the environment. However this new inventive idea could turn this around. However as you mentioned the issue could be with religious views where the body cannot be cremated.

    Poonam Desai


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