Why Is Cremation Becoming More Popular in the US?

Why Is Cremation Becoming More Popular in the US?

In 1960, only 3.6% of Americans chose cremation. The projected cremation rate for 2015 is astronomically higher at 48.2%. That’s a 1,238.88% increase in the number of people choosing cremation over a span of just 65 years.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the projected cremation rate will continue to rise in the coming years, with 55.8% of Americans expected to choose cremation in 2020 and 70.6% in 2030.

But what’s caused this dramatic rise in the popularity of cremation? Experts cite demographics and economic factors as the largest elements, but they’re not the only ones.

Environmental concerns, fewer religious prohibitions, a growing preference for personalized and less traditional services as well as our ability to prearrange our final needs are also contributing factors.


While cost varies based on whether a service is planned and the type of service chosen, the average cost for cremations are still much lower than the average funeral and burial service.

Decreased household discretionary income means many families simply do not have the finances to arrange and pay for a traditional funeral and burial service. In this light, cremation is viewed as a less expensive, yet loving and respectful alternative.

Environmental Concerns

With the nation’s growing interest in sustainable environmental practices, concern over the impact of death and burial is also growing. Some arguments against burial include:

  • Embalming: Embalming fluids are a mixture of formaldehyde, ethanol, methanol and other organic solvents. In United States cemeteries, 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid are buried each year. Formaldehyde has been named a class 1 carcinogenic compound by the World Health Organization and been linked to brain cancer and leukemia. It can leak from caskets, has been detected near streams near cemeteries and in the waste water of funeral homes. Contrary to popular belief, embalming is not generally required.
  • Land Scarcity: Large portions of land are used as cemeteries, which cannot be used to farm or build.
  • Unsustainable Material Uses: Hardwood and metal caskets have a slow decomposition rate. Roughly 30 million board feet (71,000 meter3) of casket wood is felled every year to keep up with American demand. This doesn’t just include your standard pine box either. The amount of steel used in caskets and vaults used yearly in North America is equivalent to the amount used in the Golden Gate Bridge. The amount of concrete used in vaults could build a highway from San Francisco to Poland.

While cremation is not a 100% green process, many people choose it over burial to reduce their land usage, preserve natural resources like hardwood, and to avoid the chemicals associated with the embalming process.

Freedom and Flexibility (Travel and type of service)

With families moving throughout the country, a single burial plot in their hometown cemetery makes less sense. A traditional burial also requires much more immediacy, which can be stressful to coordinate and heartbreaking to miss.

Cremation allows the family to schedule a memorial service around the availability of each member and provides more time for them to make travel arrangements. There are also more options for the memorial service because ashes can be buried, kept at home or scattered in a meaningful location. There are also many unique ways to scatter and store ashes that make the memorial much more personal and significant.

Prearrangement: People Choose It for Themselves

“If you’re reading this letter, my disease has run its course. Enclosed is some money for my burial. I would like to be cremated. I spent my whole life in a box. I don’t want to be buried in one.”

This letter, written by Queen Latifah’s character in the movie Last Holiday, expresses an extremely personal sentiment. Prearrangement not only settles major questions for a grieving family, it also allows an individual to ensure that his or her final wishes are followed.

Many people are simply opposed to the idea of burial for personal reasons. By prearranging a cremation, an individual is able to ensure that his or her wishes are met while placing minimal stress on the family he or she leaves behind.

Plan Your Final Needs in Advance

Experiencing a death in the family causes emotional turmoil. Trying to plan a loved one’s final arrangements can add even more stress and anxiety. Knowing what a loved one wanted can prevent families from paying too much during a time when grief can influence or negate the financial factors of final arrangements.

When you make prearrangements with National Cremation, you can lock in lower service costs and ensure that your final wishes are secure while relieving your family of the burden to plan after your passing. They’ll have the comfort of knowing that they are doing exactly as you wanted and can grieve in peace, knowing that they are lovingly and respectfully letting you rest.

Special thanks to Samantha Maiden, location manager of National Cremation Portland, OR for her support and contributions to this post.