Ash for clunkers

Selling the virtues of cremation in a recession: cheap, green, and liberating.
Selling the virtues of cremation in a recession: cheap, green, and liberating.

I recently received an envelope in the mail offering a "Free Pre-Paid Cremation!" I figured it was either a note from an irate reader or a sign that Obama's "death panels" were up and running.

Since I'm not dead quite yet, the offer seemed premature. Turned out it was from Neptune Society in Bellevue, an organization that arranges for budget burnings for those who choose to go up in smoke. I've noticed that cremation seems to be hot these days. In Spokane, along Division Street (their version of Aurora Way) there are signs touting low-cost cremations the way you'd expect used cars to be sold. Is it a sign of recession woes?

The pitch letter from Neptune offers some insights into the contemporary death-pitch.

One, they state that because we're such a mobile society these days, cremation is best because you can take it with you, if the "it" is the ashes of a loved one. No sense in being needlessly bound to place by the graves of your ancestors. "Cremation just makes sense," they declare.

Another reason: Cremation has less environmental impact. You think plastic bags are bad for the environment, what about grandma embalmed in a casket? It should be noted that the Neptune pitch came on recycled paper.

I'm not sure of what the carbon footprint is of reducing a body to carbon, but it's worth investigating. I wonder if your body is transported to the crematorium by cyclists from the Sightline Institute?

Yet another advantage: No hard-sell from creepy morticians who try to sell the bereaved all kinds of things they don't need. Cremation will "protect your family from falling victim to pressure to 'over-spend' on your funeral." Forget the death tax; it's predatory funeral homes you should be worried about if you want to protect your inheritance. Your siblings could also peck away at your inheritance. Why not arrange for their pre-paid cremations too while you're at it?

The Neptune envelope came with a stars-and-stripes stamp and the large print of an American flag. Cremation, apparently, is patriotic too.

A cheap cremation is appealing during tough economic times. If nothing else it will increase your post-mortem urning power.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.