This is the fifth year we’ve surveyed Americans’ funeral preferences, which can be accessed here: 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. The full results of the 2024 survey are below.

Alternative Burial Preferences In 2024

In recent years, the United States has witnessed a significant shift in funeral practices, with 2024 marking a pronounced trend toward eco-friendly and alternative funeral options.

This change reflects a growing environmental consciousness and a desire for more personalized and meaningful end-of-life ceremonies.

Traditional burials, often involving resource-intensive coffins and embalming processes, are increasingly being replaced by greener choices like biodegradable caskets, natural burial sites, and even creative options like tree pod burials or coral reef memorials.

These emerging trends not only signify a departure from conventional practices but also represent a deeper societal movement towards sustainability and a more intimate connection with the natural world in the cycle of life and death.

bar chart showing the most preferred alternative burial options

  1. Green Burials 27%
  2. Natural Organic Reduction (Human Composting) 22%
  3. Tree Pod Burials 18%
  4. Memorial Reefs 14%
  5. Mushroom Suits 7%
  6. Aquamation (Alkaline Hydrolysis) 6%
  7. Space Burials 6%

The survey shows that the landscape of funerals in the United States has marked a shift towards more eco-friendly alternatives to traditional burials.

The most popular of these environmentally conscious options are Green Burials, Natural Organic Reduction (Human Composting), and Tree Pod Burials.


Most Popular: Green Burials

In the first place, Green Burials, preferred by 27% of respondents, avoid the environmentally harmful embalming process and utilize biodegradable caskets or shrouds, allowing the body to decompose naturally and return to the earth with minimal ecological impact.


2nd Most Popular: Natural Organic Reduction

Close behind in popularity, with 22% opting for it, is Natural Organic Reduction or Human Composting.


3rd Most Popular: Tree Pod Burials

Finally, in third place, Tree Pod Burials, chosen by 18% of respondents, offer a unique blend of burial and reforestation.

Each of these methods reflects a growing desire for sustainability and a deeper connection with nature in life’s final chapter.


The full list of alternative burials the respondents could choose from included:


Green Burials

Green burials represent a return to simplicity and environmental responsibility by dispensing with expensive impediments to natural decomposition, such as chemical embalming, metal or hardwood caskets, and concrete, plastic, or fiberglass vaults.

Biodegradable shrouds and caskets made from cotton, linen, hemp, wool, other natural fibers, or soft woods such as pine or bark are used. Woven caskets and trays crafted from native willow, seagrass, and other materials, often locally sourced and made, are also welcome.

Family, friends, and community members often participate in the procession and assist in filling the grave after any type of service, including military, religious, or private. No additional steps are necessary, and no manmade or natural resources are expended.

Most importantly, land is used efficiently and sustainably. Conservation burial—natural burial on protected land—ensures that the land will be preserved by a land trust for public use forever. These burial grounds often host birdwatching, hiking, educational wilderness programs, life cycle events, yoga classes, and other community events. 

This option reduces burials’ environmental impact and costs due to the absence of embalming and vaults. The cost of green burials varies, depending on location and type of cemetery, but can often fall between $400 and $4000.


Natural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)

Natural Organic Reduction, commonly referred to as human composting, is an innovative method that transforms the body into nutrient-rich soil through a natural process.

The body is placed in a specialized vessel along with organic materials like wood chips and straw. Over the course of several weeks, the body decomposes naturally, aided by organic materials and controlled environmental conditions.

This process results in the creation of soil that can be used to nourish the earth, allowing the deceased to contribute to the cycle of life in a direct and tangible way. This method is gaining popularity as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional burials and cremations.


Aquamation (Alkaline Hydrolysis)

Aquamation, also known as water cremation or alkaline hydrolysis, is an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional cremation.

This process uses a solution of water and lye to break down the body, reducing it to its basic chemical components.

Unlike traditional cremation, aquamation uses significantly less energy and results in fewer emissions, making it a more sustainable option.

The process is gentle and respectful, and it leaves behind a sterile solution that can be safely returned to the water cycle.

This method is an example of how modern technology can provide more sustainable options for end-of-life care.


Mushroom Suits

The mushroom burial suit is a unique and innovative approach to eco-friendly burials. These suits or shrouds are embedded with mushroom spores and are completely biodegradable.

When a body dressed in a mushroom suit is buried, the mushrooms begin to grow and aid in the decomposition process. These mushrooms play a crucial role in breaking down the body and neutralizing any toxins released during decomposition. This process not only returns the body to the earth in a natural way but also benefits the surrounding soil and environment.

The mushroom suit is a testament to the possibilities of combining nature and technology for eco-conscious burial practices.


Tree Pod Burials

Tree pod burials offer a unique way to commemorate life while contributing to the environment.

Using this method, the body is placed in a biodegradable pod that is buried underground, and a tree is planted above it.

As the body decomposes, it nourishes the growing tree, providing a living, growing memorial and contributing to environmental restoration.

This method creates a living memorial, allowing the deceased to become part of a new life. The tree serves as a symbol of ongoing life and a lasting tribute to the person who has passed away.

This method is gaining popularity among those who seek a more natural and meaningful way to remember their loved ones.


Memorial Reefs

Reef memorials, or eternal reefs, provide a way to remember loved ones while contributing positively to marine ecosystems.

This method involves creating artificial coral reefs using remains mixed with environmentally safe cement. These reef balls are then placed in the ocean, where they serve as a new habitat for marine life. This method combines a tribute to the deceased with a contribution to marine conservation.

Over time, these reef balls become part of the ocean’s ecosystem, providing a living legacy that supports and enhances marine life. Eternal Reefs offer a way for individuals to remain connected to the natural world and contribute to the health of our planet.


Space Burials

Space burials offer a unique and modern way to memorialize the deceased. This method involves sending a small portion of cremated remains into space, where they can orbit the Earth or travel further into the cosmos.

While not eco-friendly due to the energy required for launch, space burials appeal to those fascinated by the mysteries of the universe and the idea of being part of the vast expanse of space.

This method represents a departure from traditional burial practices, offering a high-tech and adventurous way to remember a loved one.


State By State Breakdown

When broken down across America, it was clear that those in different states preferred alternative options when it came to burials.

The table below shows which eco-friendly or alternative burial people in each state would choose over a traditional funeral.

StateAlternative Burial
AlabamaGreen Burials
AlaskaNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
ArizonaGreen Burials
ArkansasNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
CaliforniaNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
ColoradoGreen Burials
ConnecticutNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
DelawareNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
FloridaGreen Burials
GeorgiaGreen Burials
HawaiiGreen Burials
IdahoNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
IllinoisGreen Burials
IndianaNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
IowaNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
KansasGreen Burials
KentuckyGreen Burials
LouisianaGreen Burials
MaineGreen Burials
MarylandGreen Burials
MassachusettsTree Pod Burials
MichiganGreen Burials
MinnesotaGreen Burials
MississippiMushroom Suits
MissouriGreen Burials
MontanaMushroom Suits
NebraskaGreen Burials
NevadaGreen Burials
New HampshireGreen Burials
New JerseyGreen Burials
New MexicoNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
New YorkGreen Burials
North CarolinaGreen Burials
North DakotaGreen Burials
OhioGreen Burials
OklahomaNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
OregonMemorial Reefs
PennsylvaniaGreen Burials
Rhode IslandGreen Burials
South CarolinaNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
South DakotaMemorial Reefs
TennesseeTree Pod Burials
TexasGreen Burials
UtahGreen Burials
VermontMushroom Suits
VirginiaNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
WashingtonTree Pod Burials
West VirginiaGreen Burials
WisconsinNatural Organic Reduction (Human Composting)
WyomingTree Pod Burials

Although many states opted for the most popular overall, such as the Green Burial or Human Composting, some states preferred other options.

For example, Mississippians’ top pick was a ‘Mushroom Suit’. Oregonians, however, would choose ‘Memorial Reefs.’


Common Concerns About Traditional Methods

A bar chart showing what concerns Americans have with traditional funerals.

In America, the cost of a funeral is a significant concern for many people. This worry stems from the high expenses associated with funeral arrangements, which can include charges for services like embalming, casket purchase, funeral director fees, and the cost of a burial plot or cremation.

These costs can quickly add up, often reaching several thousand dollars, placing a substantial financial burden on bereaved families.

The survey revealed additional findings that shed light on American attitudes toward burial methods and environmental sustainability.

When asked to rate on a scale of 1-10, with ten being the most likely, how inclined they would be to opt for alternative burial methods if they were more affordable than traditional burial or cremation, respondents gave an average score of 6.1 out of 10.

This indicates a moderate likelihood of Americans considering cost-effective alternatives to conventional burial practices.


How Much Americans Care About Sustainability

The survey assessed the importance of environmental sustainability in the choice of burial method.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 signifying the utmost importance, Americans assigned an average importance rating of 5.7 out of 10 to environmental sustainability in their burial decisions.

This finding suggests that while environmental concerns are somewhat significant, they may not be the primary factor influencing burial choices among Americans.

These insights highlight a growing openness to non-traditional burial options, influenced by both economic and environmental considerations.

Speaking of influences, the survey found that a surprising 1 in 3 Americans would choose an eco-friendly or alternative burial if celebrities or influencers began endorsing them.

A chart showing how Americans would react to a loved one who prefers an eco-friendly burial

Although 72% of Americans are happy to support their friends and families’ wishes, a surprising 39% of respondents feel uncomfortable discussing funeral plans.

In recent times, a noticeable shift towards eco-friendly and alternative funerals over traditional ones can be attributed to a confluence of factors.

Chief among them is the rising global environmental awareness, prompting individuals to seek ways to minimize their ecological footprint, even in death, through sustainable practices such as biodegradable materials and avoiding chemical embalming.

Accompanying this is a cultural and social shift; as societal attitudes toward death evolve, there’s a growing preference for funerals that are more personalized, meaningful, and reflective of individual values, including environmental concerns.

Economically, the often prohibitive cost of traditional funerals has led many to consider eco-friendly options as a more affordable alternative. This preference for simplicity and a natural approach resonates with the increasing desire to return to nature and simplicity in various life aspects.

Finally, the trend is supported by legislative and industry changes, with laws adapting to accommodate alternative practices and the funeral industry responding to consumer demand for greener options.

These factors collectively drive the movement towards eco-friendly and alternative funerals, allowing individuals to align their final farewell with their broader values and beliefs.


How Americans Plan To Pay For Funeral Costs

The National Funeral Directors Association reported that a traditional funeral costs roughly $10,000, whereas a cremation costs nearly $6,000.

When asked how Americans intend to fund their funerals, the results showed that the majority (39%) would rely on life insurance or burial insurance to cover the costs.

A lesser amount chose to rely on personal funds or options for a pre-paid burial plan.

A pie chart showing how Americans plan to pay for a funeral



Online panel survey of 6,000 adults based on age, gender, and geography. Internal data sources are used to obtain population data sets. We used a two-step process to ensure representativeness through stratified sampling and post-stratification weighting.

February 2024.

Choice Mutual often cites third-party websites to provide context and verification for specific claims made in our work. We only link to authoritative websites that provide accurate information. You can learn more about our editorial standards, which guide our mission of delivering factual and impartial content.

  1. utilize biodegradable caskets or shrouds.
  2. human composting.
  3. alkaline hydrolysis.
  4. mushroom burial suit.
  5. body is placed in a biodegradable pod.
  6. eternal reefs.
  7. cremated remains into space.
  8. National Funeral Directors Association.