Natural burial plans growing in popularity

The Choice Mutual annual survey on American burial preferences, that you can access here, has been released and it shows that preference for Natural Burial dispositions has grown since the 2020 survey while the preference for traditional services and cremation has declined.  To be sure, Natural Burial only shows a preference of 10% of the respondents in this year’s April study.  However, in this survey, traditional burial has dropped from 35% to 34% and cremation has dropped from 44% to 37% in the same time period.

And while the choice of natural burial has grown to only 10% in 2022, it more than doubles the number of consumers who chose that preference in 2020 when the preference rate was only 4%.

Here’s what the survey mentions about natural burial and its potential impact on cremation:

Although cremation is the most common burial method in the United States, the decrease in respondents choosing cremation compared to 2020 may be a result of the growing availability of more sustainable burial alternatives, including natural burial, alkaline hydrolosis (or aquamation), and body composting. . . . .70% of respondents answered that they are familiar with the natural burial option.  By definition, a natural burial is the most simple and widely available, sustainable burial process. Instead of being embalmed and put into a casket, the body is placed directly into the ground, where it can naturally decompose.”

The Choice Mutual survey also included this tidbit that is very interesting to me, “69% of Americans responded that they would change their burial plans if money were not a factor.”

Finally, I found some statistics on how Americans plan to pay for their funeral in 2022 as compared to the same question in 2020 interesting.  While the use of life insurance has went down from 43% in 202o to 38% in the 2022 survey it should be noted that the same percentage has increased what is called “Personal Funds set Aside”, which I take as a something akin to a preneed account.  That has grown from 14% to 19% in the past two years.  Another 8%, which remains unchanged, lists a funeral pre-arrangement.

Finally, and a somewhat worrisome thought, the amount of people who intend to pay for their funeral through crowdfunding has more than doubled from 3% in 2020 to 7% in 2022.

The survey methodology included sampling 1,500 Americans ranged in age from age 18 to a category of 54 years of age and older.

Related:  Human composting could be legalized in California.  Spectrum News

You can access the survey here.

Funeral Director Daily take:  To a lot of funeral service professionals the cumulative percentages given as answers in this survey may strike you as a little different than your perceptions on these subjects.  However, just 35% of the survey respondents were over the age of 45 and I think that tells our profession, not necessarily what is happening now, but possibly gives us looks into trends that may be coming to fruition over the next 20 years or so.

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

For instance, body composting is seen as a “considered choice” by 62% of the 25-34 age bracket whereas another question identified that only 55% of the over 54 age bracket could even identify what “Natural Burial” was.  And, only 31% of the over 54 age bracket would consider body composting.

I think following this type of “trend” survey is important as you consider how you position your brand going forward.  I think that there probably is a long term trend in what are now considered “alternative” forms of disposition.  Over time, I would guess that those “alternatives” such as body composting (recomposition), natural earth burial, and alkaline hydrolysis (water cremation) become more mainstream.  I would also guess that you don’t want to be taken by surprise when that happens.

In the “history kind of repeats itself” way of thinking, those that embraced the thought of cremation and installed their own crematories when cremation was only a 10-15% disposition method in the United States, in most instances gained market share in their communities.  I’m guessing that the same formula will play out with recomposition, natural earth burial, and alkaline hydrolysis.

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