A green funeral is often the continuation of a lifetime of being environmentally conscious. People who have always tried to live a sustainable life and reduce their impact on the environment want to say goodbye to the world in the same way. There are many ways to hold an eco-friendly funeral, it’s simply a matter of deciding how you wish to make your funeral arrangements.
Burial or Cremation: Which is Greener?
There are two main methods of handling a person’s remains. They can be buried in a coffin or they can be cremated, which requires the body to be burned at very high temperatures.
Cremation does produce a large amount of carbon dioxide, but caring for a traditional grave site ends up generating more carbon dioxide than a cremation. In the end, it’s most likely the personal wishes of the deceased and of the family that will determine which choice is best.
Choosing Eco-Friendly Coffins
Eco-friendly coffins are the best choice for a green funeral, as traditional coffins are full of chemicals. These toxins are released into the ground and can create a chemical leak into the soil around the coffin. In addition, most coffins are lined with plastic, which doesn’t break down into the soil.
For those who wish to return to the soil, it’s important to have a biodegradable coffin. There are a number of choices for these.
Cardboard: This is quite biodegradable and is recycled, as well. However, if the coffin isn’t made locally, you’ll usually find that it has quite the impact on the environment from being shipped and transported.
Pine: Locally grown pine is beautiful and simple, yet it biodegrades easily.
Wicker: Made from pliable plants such as rattan or willow, these coffins are elegantly woven and provide a lovely final resting place for a loved one.
Bamboo: A rapidly growing, fully renewable resource, bamboo is a good choice for a green coffin. It may be used in strips like wood, or it can be woven.
Felt/Wool: Fabric coffins aren’t as common as other types, but they are certainly an option in many areas. These are usually made from wool off of sheep, which is renewable and natural.
Recycled Wood: Using recycled wood is a good way to ensure the burial has minimal impact on the environment.
It’s a good idea to look for coffins that offer either rope or wood handles. Many of the ones that look like metal are actually plastic and are quite bad for the environment, so you’ll want to avoid these where possible. Rope and wood will deteriorate over time.
You have many choices for the perfect coffin. However, some people elect to skip the box completely and prefer to be buried in a shroud, which is simply a cotton sheet that is wrapped around the body. This isn’t legal in all areas, but if it is an option for you, there are some lovely shrouds that have been hand embroidered and decorated to give a fitting send-off.
Burial Styles for Less Environmental Impact
It’s traditional to embalm someone who has passed, to preserve the body. This prevents it from naturally returning to the earth and can have an impact on the environment. Studies have shown that formaldehyde used in embalming can end up in the groundwater in some areas. You may wish to ask if it’s possible to avoid embalming. This does require the remains to be kept in a refrigerated area and it isn’t always an option, so speak to your funeral director first.
The place of burial is also important. Most cemeteries use quite a bit of energy to maintain the grounds. The area is mowed frequently, the grass watered and fertilised, and possibly even pesticides used. For many people who are making funeral arrangements, the average cemetery may feel dull and lifeless. It’s too neat and tidy, with none of the things that make a space feel beautiful.
If you don’t wish to have the burial at a regular cemetery, you can choose a natural or woodland burial.
More and more people are opting for a woodland burial. This is where the burial occurs in an area full of trees or where a tree is planted with each burial to create a memorial woodland. In some cases, they are just part of a regular cemetery where the trees are allowed to grow up and the area is left to return to nature. In some cases, families may plant trees or wildflowers to increase the natural beauty of the area and this can be soothing, as well.
Natural burial sites are areas that allow burials in a natural meadow or other space. There are no groundskeepers, just nature taking over. It’s a beautiful way to be entered and will often give the family more peace than seeing their loved one being placed in one of the hundreds of identical graves on a flat lawn.
The benefit of having a natural or woodland burial is that it’s allowed to be natural. There are insects, native plants, and wildlife, just as it should be. While these areas may have some upkeep from time to time, they tend to be left wild as much as possible. This provides a peaceful place to find your rest.
Other Environmental Factors to Consider
You can take care to make everything around the funeral eco-friendly, as well. This includes sending out digital invitations to avoid using paper. If you do use paper, choose recycled stationery for a lower impact. In fact, anything used during the funeral, such as programmes, should make use of recycled paper whenever possible. You may use chalkboards or whiteboards for reusable announcement boards as needed.
Transportation is another consideration. There are electric hearses available that permit you to move the coffin to its final resting place without using petrol. However, depending on where you are going, you may choose another method, such as a horse-drawn carriage, a bicycle hearse, or even carrying the coffin.
Consider how to manage transportation and don’t worry if you would like something unusual. It can be a good way to honour the life of that special someone.
For food and drink, use local options. A farm to table caterer is a good choice, but anyone who provides locally sourced food and drink can help keep the affair green. You will likely want to keep any decorations and flowers to a minimum, though you can choose native species for any bouquets.
If you have chosen to cremate, you may wish to place the cremains in a container with a tree seed so that the ashes can help bring new life to the world. Many people would love to return as a tree and this is a wonderful way to create a lasting memorial. You may also request attendees plant a tree in memory of your loved one.
Funeral Pre-Planning: Should I Plan My Funeral Ahead of Time?
Funeral planning is difficult when you’re grieving. You can make the process easier on your family by making funeral arrangements ahead of time. It’s possible to choose what you want at your funeral, as well as paying ahead of time. This means you do all the work before you pass and your family merely needs to attend the funeral.
Funeral pre-planning allows you to ease the burden of managing funeral planning for your family, but it also ensures you will get exactly what you want. If you feel that your family members may not respect your wishes, you may want to pre-plan everything so you can ensure it goes the way you want.
You may also specify anything you want in your will. If you are unable to manage all the funeral payments ahead of time, leave your wishes in your will. This can encourage your family to do as you wanted. You may also speak with the funeral director to make your plans and choose everything so that your family doesn’t need to make those decisions later on.
Talk to your funeral director about the option of doing all the funeral arrangements ahead of time. This is a surprisingly common request and they will be more than happy to help you with your choices.
If you’re making funeral arrangements and want an eco-friendly funeral for yourself or a loved one, Stockman and Loram can help. We have the experience necessary with planning green burials to aid you in making these final decisions. Contact us today to make an appointment.