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The Business of Death

By: Teri Bernstein


As the baby boomer generation ages, one thing is certain--the need for burial or other end-of-life services will peak for more than a decade. As it happens, this coincides with a larger world population and less space for burial. Enter innovation and entrepreneurship.


Hurdles remain: first, many for people are unwilling to deal with mortality practicalities, due to a desire to avoid the topic of death. Also, religious requirements and cultural traditions play a huge role in end-of-life practices. 

I recently had a 17-year old shepherd-mix dog die. We had prepared for her death by digging a five foot deep grave and purchasing a new product--a shroud from the start-up Coeio. It was imbued with a type of mushroom spore that would, when buried, spring to life to hasten the process of decomposition. 


Practices at death vary widely throughout the world, and entrepreneurs are breaking new ground in adapting these practices in ecologically sound and economical ways. NPR's Planet Money explores some of these practices. 


Source: "Episode 801: The Death Show," by Stacey Vanek Smith, Bryant Urstadt, Sonari Glinton, and Sally Helm, NPR's Planet Money, October 20, 2017. [transcript]



  • Have you or your parents discussed plans for the deaths of anyone in your family? Have you already had to deal with this? Are there certain family traditions or expectations? Describe and discuss your feelings about the plans (or lack thereof)
  • Do any of the "new traditions" discussed in the podcast appeal to you? Would you like to have a big funeral rather than a big wedding? 
  • Is the business of death a good investment in the U.S.? Discuss the demographics and possible marketing opportunities.