A green funeral…
…uses sustainably-sourced coffins
…prefers a hand-dug grave in a green space that acts as a natural memorial
Many of us want to be environmentally conscious in our lives. It is possible to be equally environmentally conscious in our death.
A completely green funeral must follow a strict set of rules, all of which are related to the impact made on the environment. The aim is to leave no trace and, if possible, to benefit the environment in some way.
We can help you to decide if a green funeral is right for you.
Further information on green funerals
The idea of the burial having a conservation purpose is that you are giving something back, being recycled. The law states that a body must be buried to a certain depth, which does not easily allow for an aerobic decomposition process. It may also be a problem for families to accept that they cannot visit or mark the grave of a loved one. This is why a lot of green burial grounds do allow for marking of the grave in various ways and do not discourage people from visiting: each has a different set of rules on what is and what is not allowed. One green option is to be buried in your garden, but this will not suit everyone.
Green funerals may have traditional or religious elements. Interestingly, traditional religious funeral services from Victorian times were often very green. Most people were buried in their local parish. People would walk to the service, motor vehicles were not used of course, and materials would be locally sourced. Often there was no headstone at the grave. Even today a local burial ground or cemetery is a good green option, particularly if the family live close by.
The Church of England prefers memorials to decay and age over time just as a person does. Psalm 103 encompasses the thoughts of the Christian faith and our place on Earth: ‘As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.’
It is possible to make choices for a greener funeral without following all of the guidelines. The cremation process uses about as much energy as you would in a month of living or the equivalent to a 500 mile road trip. You can make green choices that reduce the footprint that you leave behind or offset it in some way.
To offset cremation you could consider having a tree planted. “Bios Urn” provide biodegradable cremation urns that have a tree seed inside. Once buried the seed will grow and the ashes will become part of the subsoil.
Another idea for making your ashes green is from “Eternal Reefs”, who will mix cremated remains with concrete; this is sunk in to the sea where it can provide a habitat for marine life. Mimicking a natural reef.
An efficient way of reducing your carbon footprint would be control of the vehicles used to get to the service, for example by arranging a bus or encouraging people to car share. You could consider holding the service somewhere accessible by public transport. This may involve having a service at a separate location to the cremation/burial itself.
The type of coffin can also be considered, the best choice being one made from local sustainable materials. Ordering a coffin from a UK manufacturer will certainly help to cut fuel miles, particularly compared with coffins coming from China.
Examples of green coffins made in the UK are Woollen coffins by “Natural Endings”, which are made from Yorkshire wool. They are handmade, are completely natural and are biodegradable. “Bellacouche” coffins are handmade from locally-sourced felt. “First Feet Coffins” produce 100% environmentally friendly solid wooden coffins.
Cardboard coffins by “Greenfield Creations”, as well as being affordable, have 90% lower carbon emissions than chipboard. They are 100% biodegradable and are made from at least 70% post-consumer waste. They also use corn starch glues which are environmentally friendly. It is certainly an area that manufacturers are taking seriously.