The business of death: Idealog’s top 5 alternative burial options, ranked

“When I die, put me in a cardboard box and put me in the ground.” That’s what my grandfather always said.

We didn’t end up doing that, of course. Rather, that sweet man was buried in a shroud of tears and rich mahogany, but the sentiment is a fairly common one: don’t make a fuss; just put me in the ground and remember the good times.

It’s not a universal attitude however. Every country, culture and family has their own ways of managing this unhappy yet mandatory time, ranging from the stately and dignified to the not-so-much.

At Idealog, maybe it’s the hipster in us, but we wouldn’t be caught dead in a regular coffin (too mainstream), so we’ve found the best five traditional-burial alternatives and ranked them according to their awesomeness.  

So just what are the real options for the newly-living impaired?

5. Natural Burial

Cost: NZ$2600 (In Wellington)

If you’re too in touch with mother earth for a traditional funeral, here’s your au natural alternative: an eco-burial. Take one certified pine or wicker box, natural clothing of your choice and a shady spot among the trees, lie back and enjoy.

Only slightly more expensive than a traditional Kiwi interment, this one avoids both the unfashionable carbon-footprint associated with cremation and the needless extravagance of burying a perfectly good suit.

Caveats include, no headstone, no trinkets buried with you and disinterment is…discouraged.

Pros: Good for the environment; relatively cheap; beautifully landscaped Makara Cemetery for your big dirt nap

Cons: Not recommended for clean freaks; close-to-surface burial may prove tempting for industrious dogs

Get yours here.

4. Fireworks

Cost: £300 - £2000

Make a display of yourself by having your ashes incorporated into the insides of a rocket. This UK-based company can create a huge fireworks display that incorporates your own cremated remains into the big event, or they can provide you with an at-home kit for a more ‘intimate’ service. Pets are also invited to go out with a bang.

Pros: The neighbours can participate in the service but not in the open bar; redneck approved

Cons: It always seems like it's over too soon; debris falling into the upturned mouths of awestruck mourners

Get yours here.


3. Cryogenics Institute

Cost: US$35,000

This company just outside of Detroit Michigan will freeze you (and the family pet if needed) for one low, low, payment of US$35,000.

“Our mission,” they say, “is to extend human lifespans by preserving the body using existing technologies - with the goal of revival by future science. But will it work?”

They don’t sound that sure of themselves, but one thing’s certain: Cryo-freezing surely requires a Kardashian-style level of narcissism, so the big downer is the fact you’ll still have to share your icy embrace with the 133 other self-regarding immortals on-site.   

Pros: Pet-friendly; immortality

Cons: You’ve got to die of natural causes first (no suicides, please); you’ll stay in Detroit

Get yours here.

2. Space Burial

Cost: US$1295 – US$12,500

Send a ‘symbolic portion’ of yourself into space for a real final send off.

The Houston, Texas-based aerospace company, Celestis, have 30 years’ experience in private sector space missions and have taken hundreds of clog poppers on their final ride.

Options include, orbit (pfft!), the lunar surface (right on!) or deep space (woah). Return flights also available (I’m not making this up).

In addition to interstellar travel, they also offer a ‘touching’ web memorial, a satellite tracking app and a free DVD of the event.

Pros: Geek cred; Veterans’ discount

Cons: Expensive; enormous carbon footprint

Get yours here.

1. Mummification

Cost: By donation

Witnessing the drying effect of burying their dead in the hot, dry sands of the desert, the ancient Egyptians wanted to recreate that preservative effect, without all the unwanted nibbling that happens when you leave a body lying around outside. Nek minute, they’d invented mummification.

And while it’s not the most common practice these days, if you Google hard enough, you’ll come across a religion known as Summum, founded by Claude 'Corky' Nowell in 1975, that still practices the unusual craft.

Summum is a nature-based religion that says we’re all one or something or other, but the point for non-believers here is that the service is open to anyone, not just members of the church, and is also available for pets.

And they don’t do things by halves: The process is “elaborate, detailed, thorough, and lengthy” and comes with a real Summum mausoleum or burial vault.

They don’t do media interviews, so discretion is assured.

Pros: Non-denominational; pet friendly; excellent conversation starter

Cons: None

Get yours here.

Image: Corky Ra & "Oscar"


Infographic: Rachael Liddell