Article originally appeared on nwaonline.com – By Christie Swanson – Tommy Holland with Beard’sFuneral Chapel in Fayetteville shows the crematorium Tuesday at the Fayetteville Funeral Chapel. Cremation is gaining in acceptance and popularity. Thirty-two percent of American deceased were cremated in 2005, growing steadily to 49 percent last year. The National Funeral Directors Association predicts the rate will increase to 71 percent by 2030.

The growing number of funeral options from cremations to celebrations are making burying a loved one more convenient and comforting.

“There are no more cookie cutter funerals,” said Bradley Sheppard, a funeral science instructor for Arkansas State University-Mountain Home. He is based at the program’s Northwest Arkansas Community College location in Bentonville. “People have so many options these days.”

Nearly half of all people who died nationally last year were cremated and about 36 percent of Arkansans were cremated, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Industry insiders expect that number to continue to rise.

An increasing number of people also are going with a green, or natural, burial. The deceased isn’t embalmed, and burial involves a biodegradable casket, shroud or blanket and no vaults. A Fayetteville-based group is in the early stages of establishing a natural cemetery.

Services are also becoming more individualized, and many people are choosing to simplify the events, Sheppard said.

“Many people are sort of downscaling, but still recognize the value of having something,” he said.

Joshua Slocum, executive director of the nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance, said money is a major reason people are looking for alternatives, but he also pointed to generational preference changes.

“A lot of people are not finding the same satisfaction will the full-service funeral and visitation hours,” he said. “Funerals change the way fashion changes, not always the same way in the same areas.”

Slocum also said the fact people are more transient means visits to local cemeteries are just not convenient or practical many times.

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