The Business Of Death

GOOD magazine presents a quirky little video looking at the multi-million dollar business of dying. It’s crazy to think how much steel, concrete, wood and brass we bury in the ground in one year just to take entomb our useless corpses.


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  1. homerjay says:

    You can have your ashes turned into a DIAMOND???

  2. BigNutty says:

    The game of dying has changed due to laws that were passed. You can prepare for that “special day” much better than in the old days. Funeral homes must be upfront about fee’s, allow for certain special requests, and allow you to purchase products (like caskets, urns, etc.) from other sources.

    Personally, I told my wife to just put me out with the trash when that “special day” arrives.

  3. godawgs7 says:

    any suggestions on the cheapest / most environmentally friendly way to be shoved on to the afterlife?

    Can my family just throw me out to sea?

    If all else fails, i’ll donate my body to a med school for disection, but will be sure to swallow something cool for them to find when they start dissecting (like a note from the afterlife).

  4. lukobe says:

    At least cremation is gaining popularity in the U.S., if a bit slowly. We’re currently at around 30%, with the highest rate in Nevada (65%+)–the West in general is a pretty popular place for cremation–and the lowest in Mississippi (9.6%)–the South, not so much. I’m having a harder time than I would have thought locating international rates on the Web, but I do believe they’re quite a bit higher in places like Britain, for example, while it only became legal in Greece last year.

    The Funeral Consumers Alliance ([]) is a grea resource for more information on funeral practices that don’t waste time, money, and resources.

  5. mac-phisto says:

    reminds me of the undertaker in “fistful of dollars”


  6. tcp100 says:

    Yeah, come on everybody, stop dying!

    Videos like these are tremendously pointless and misleading. Yeah, they’re an “eye opener”, but so would be an expose on the thumbtack industry.

    Anything in aggregate is “shocking and amazing” when you take everyone in the whole damn world into account.

    Hipsters with a copy of Flash can tell you to bury your mom in a cardboard box to save the trees, man, but when it comes down to it, are you gonna do it? Good mag can oversimplify all they want, but as humans, death is something that is still dealt with on an individual basis – and I really think it’s a human right to be able to deal with death on your own terms.

    Not everything in the world should be about recycling and sticking it to the man, man.

  7. ElizabethD says:

    Just burn me up and use my ashes as fertilizer. (Yes, I said the same thing here a day or two ago.) It’s craaaazy spending more than necessary on a corpse.

  8. kenblakely says:

    @godawgs7: That’s a good one!

  9. humphrmi says:

    I like traditional Jewish burials. A cheap wood casket, and actually the cheaper the better. And, you’re not supposed to be embalmed (or even autopsied). The biggest cost is the grave.

  10. moonarcher says:

    You might check out the book “Grave Matters” by Mark Harris, if you’re interested. Also, googling “natural burial” comes up with many hits. This is something I’ve looked into as my father’s health worsens to save money and because he’d rather not be stuck in a box, preserved as he is now for the rest of eternity.

    You don’t have to go through a funeral home at all, though if you do this I suggest you do some research on what is required by the state beforehand. Many funeral homes won’t tell you all your options. Embalming and caskets are where their money comes from after all.

  11. synergy says:

    Don’t embalm me, burn me, put me in a little box and bury the ashes under a tree. Done.

  12. Scuba Steve says:

    Bury me under a sapling. Makes for interesting stories.

  13. JadedScientist says:
  14. bigat says:


    Yes man made diamonds. It’s not synthetic it the real deal.


  15. twiddling_my_thumbs says:

    I there will have bigger things to worry about if I was dead. Ileave it up to those who carry on after me to get rid of the husk. Cheaply made into ashes or a diamond encrusted casket. Who cares… I think creamation is the route my corpse is going to take at the end.

  16. homerjay says:

    @bigat: But dude, there’s a difference between “Man Made” and “Made from Man”

  17. HooFoot says:

    @godawgs7: When my mother died, we had her body cremated and scattered the ashes at her favorite beach. We only had to pay a small fee to a local funeral home to have her cremated, plus travel expenses to the beach. The total bill for the “funeral” came to a few hundred dollars–very cheap and much less wasteful compared to the costs of an average casket, tombstone, and burial plot.

    I should also clarify that we were following my mom’s requests and not just trying to be stingy.

  18. ChewySquirrel says:

    I personally really don’t care what happens to my body after I’m dead. Take any organs that are still good and do whatever the hell you want. Its not like I’ll feel it or still need it, and it would just rot away in a casket anyway.

  19. TonyTriple says:

    @synergy, @Scuba Steve: can I have your trees after your done? I’m sure they could make me a kickass casket from your remains!

    Oh and those Anubuses (Anubi?) were freakin adorable. Anyone know if they are selling plush Anubi yet? They should deffinately be Good Magazine’s mascots.

  20. XopherMV says:

    When I die, cremate me and bury the ashes on Mt St Helens. Then, when the next eruption occurs, I’ll be spread halfway across the US.

  21. This just gives me another good reason to donate my body to science.

  22. alhypo says:

    Every time I pass a graveyard, I think, All that valuable real estate…

    I’ve always thought that, if we must bury ourselves as such, we should at least orient the coffins vertically so more corpses can be put in the same amount of space. I know this might seem bothersome since it is not a very restful position. But I’m pretty sure the corpse doesn’t care. If you happen to believe in the ridiculous notion of a detachable, eternal, spiritual self, then it should be of little concern what happens to your body after you die. I mean, supposedly you aren’t with your body anymore, right? And trust me, you don’t want to come back and check on it after a while.

  23. vongarr says:

    Do they still orient caskets to the east? You know, so we can see when Jesus comes back?

    If you want to take care of yourself and your family, pay all of it in advance. Get your own urn/casket/flowerpot and have it all paid for. That way, all your family has to do is grieve.

  24. XianZomby says:

    Now I can’t even die without feeling guilty. F*cking liberals.

  25. Bladefist says:

    @xianzomby: hahaha!

  26. AD8BC says:

    Interesting video. Slightly funny.

    But, for the love of Pete, does everything have to have a “green” moral to it?

  27. 4ster says:

    When I die, I want my body given to a medical school, so med students can practice on it.

    I’m a pastor, and I’ve spent my career saying, “This is my body given for you.” In death, I plan on making that statement quite literal.

  28. Trai_Dep says:

    Jeffrey Dahmer had it right: simply eat your way out of expensive post-death residency costs!

  29. Panozguy says:

    Wait, “useless corpses”?! Are you f’ing insane??? So I guess your fellow family member who dies for whatever reason, their body will not be a way to honor them, but it’s just waste? It’s just useless? I really don’t know how you could say such a thing.

    I recently attended my grandfather’s funeral. He looked very good and he had a nice casket and everything. I remember how I took one last look at him before the casket was closed, and it really is a painful thing to see. I dont believe his corpse, nor any other body that is buried, is useless in the least bit.

  30. leadhyena says:

    I love the fact that they quote Jessica Mitford at the end of the video. Check out Jessica Mitford’s “The American Way of Death” if you want to learn more about the funeral industry. GOOD Magazine only scratches the surface. You do realize that the average cost of a funeral is so high simply because of the industry working cartel-like powers to manipulate laws disallowing simple burials.

  31. asherchang2 says:

    @tcp100: Although this video doesn’t explore
    any specifics in depth, the fact still remains that Americans waste
    alot of money on preparing corpses for open wakes (while the rest of
    the world views viewing a dolled-up corpse as a ghoulish practice},
    while all the formaldehyde and other chemicals involved are NOT good
    for the environment (Cecil Adams of Straight Dope comfirms this, search
    his site’s archive).

    In addition, we’re running out of space to bury the dead, and alot
    of funeral-related services have their prices jacked up or are
    aggressively hawked out to the grieving to milk them for all they’re

    My horticulture teacher said that funerals are very profitable for
    florists as they can dump all their close-to-wilting flowers into
    flower arrangements for funerals with very little touch-up as they’re
    only expected to last for 12 hours or so.

  32. evixir says:

    There’s always the endeavour put forth by Dr. Bass:


    Donating your body to forensic science, essentially… and yet what they describe therein reinforces to me why embalming fluids and sealed caskets of nonbiodegradable materials are such a study in excess. If we allowed our bodies to decompose the way nature intended, the cycle of life would continue thanks to our corporeal selves. What better motive for a green-themed funeral is there? Your last act being one that contributes to the cycle of life, not detracts from it by dumping more chemicals into the ground.

  33. evixir says:

    Also, pick up a copy of Mary Roach’s “Stiff: The Curious Lives Of Human Cadavers” if the subject matter intrigues you. It’s a terrific read.

  34. I want a cheaptastic wood or cardboard casket if only so I can bust out again if I ain’t dead.

    I’m not really against any particular type of burial or even my body being used for science. I think I’m fine with whatever as long as they don’t just dump my body someplace.

  35. theirishscion says:

    You can have some fun with this as well. A dear friend of mine (who lived with me for the last three years of his life) asked me if I’d build him a casket out of natural materials, which I was happy to do. He and I went shopping for the lumber and he helped me as best he could (limited mobility towards the end) with construction and finishing. In fact my fiancee and several family members lent a hand in the construction and finishing. Even borrowed a neighbors sewing machine to make sew up the lining. A lot of labor admittedly, but very rewarding in it’s own way. Total cost of materials was about $450, which was actually substantially more than it needed to be. Materials for a basic pine coffin or casket should cost no more than perhaps $300. He was laid to rest un-embalmed in a country cemetery (no concrete liners) on the outskirts of Houston, under trees and within sight of a beautiful creek. The whole process was strangely beautiful.

    Funnily enough, we completed the final touches on the casket and delivered it to the undertakers about 5 hours before he passed away. Good timing man, good timing!

    I’m actually going to his memorial picnic/headstone laying this weekend so you’ll forgive me if I sound a little maudlin.


  36. vanilla-fro says:

    @WoefulWednesday: the body farm at UT needs em. That’s where I want mine to go.