Dust Unto Dust: An Exploration of How Deathcare Became Unnatural

Environmental Studies, Fordham University
Carli Neustadt, Fordham University


The environmental movement encompasses issues ranging from land use to plastic pollution. While it is of the utmost importance to address climate change as it is currently present in our daily lives, few consider the environmental costs of what we leave behind after life. This thesis analyzes present-day funeral industry practices with concern for their ecological footprint. Chapter 1 lays out quantitative data on the environmental consequences of the funeral industry. In the following section, Chapter 2 explores the history of funeral rites, providing a contextual background on how the American funeral industry developed. Chapter 3 establishes the significant advances that are made in sustainable afterlife care practices, despite the environmental toll driven by the traditional funeral industry. By emphasizing socio-political and legal restrictions currently in place, Chapter 4 expands on the contents of Chapter 3 by critiquing the practicality of integrating sustainable afterlife technology and care into present-day funeral practices. Drawing upon discussions synthesized within the previous chapters, the concluding Chapter 5 reflects upon a hopeful outlook of representing how sustainability and business can not only co-exist but how they must evolve.