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The White Eagle Memorial Preserve in southern Washington state is a wilderness area of oak and ponderosa forest that conducts green burials on the land.
The White Eagle Memorial Preserve in southern Washington state is a wilderness area of oak and ponderosa forest that conducts green burials on the land. (Handout/The Pew Charitable Trusts/TNS)

The recent Baltimore Sun article about cremation (“Cremations are starting to outpace burials in Maryland. Here’s how funeral directors are adapting," Jan. 3) fails to describe the negative environmental impacts of cremation. It takes a lot of energy to heat the crematory to 1650 degrees. It is estimated that the amount of energy required to cremate one body is about the same as driving 500 miles.

Cremations release nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, mercury, hydrogen fluoride and hydrogen chloride into the air. Modern burials create their own problems because tons of valuable resources (hardwoods, metals and concrete) are buried in the ground.

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So what’s the answer? More people are considering going back to what we used to do: natural burials. In these, the deceased (not embalmed) is placed in a shroud or biodegradable casket such as a plain pine box. The grave is not cement lined. This approach is kinder to the environment and less costly.

Whatever people choose, they ought to be fully informed of the costs and consequences.

Elizabeth Sexton, Riderwood

The writer is president of the Green Burial Association of Maryland.

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