How to plan an eco-friendly funeral

With environmental awareness on the rise, eco-friendly funerals may be an idea whose time has come. As traditional cremation produces CO2 emissions, and burials require land resources, what are the green funeral ideas out there? Here, we explore the different ways you can reduce the environmental impact of a burial or cremation.

What is an eco-friendly funeral?

An eco-friendly funeral is a way of honouring the departed in an environmentally responsible way. This might involve a natural burial, which avoids resource-intensive coffin production, uses non-toxic materials compared to traditional embalming, and takes place in restricted woodland areas where the natural habitat can be preserved. There are different approaches to a green funeral, but the objective is almost always to reduce CO2 emissions and lessen the physical impact on the environment. Aside from the direct ecological benefits, eco-friendly burials are also a way to celebrate the life of those with a passion for the outdoors.

Eco-friendly coffins

Wooden coffins are the traditional way to say goodbye to a loved one, but unless the material is non-biodegradable, it will take longer to decompose. Moreover, wooden caskets require the felling of trees; in fact, the likes of mahogany come from endangered rainforest trees. So which environmentally friendly coffins can you consider?

  • Bamboo
  • Rattan
  • Cardboard
  • Willow
  • Wicker
  • Wool
  • Poplar
  • Recycled wood

Bear in mind that it’s not just the coffin material that has an environmental impact, but the process of burial too. To keep things sustainable, avoid embalming fluids, which can be toxic to the environment, and consider that a natural woodland burial may be preferable to a concrete vault which could disrupt the surrounding habitat.

Eco-friendly cremations

Not only do cremations release harmful CO2 and other gases, the energy required to incinerate a body is the same as heating a home in winter for a week. However, emerging technology has made ‘water cremation’, sometimes known as resomation or aquamation, a distinct possibility. Water cremation uses a process called alkaline hyrdrolysis, where hot water and chemicals break down the deceased’s body in a steel chamber. The practice is legal in the UK, though it is not in widespread use. What’s more, biodegradable urns offer a more sustainable way to store ashes, and can even host a tree seed that will grow in the years to come.

Other ways to plan an eco-friendly funeral

Beyond eco-friendly burials and cremations, there are lots of small ways you can make a difference to a funeral’s green credentials. Animal agriculture contributes towards greenhouse gases, so you can always arrange a meat-free wake. While floral arrangements look lovely, you can opt for locally grown, eco-friendly funeral flowers rather than those imported from afar . And of course, getting everyone to a funeral venue requires cars, trains and even planes, so sharing rides in a car is one way to reduce the environmental impact.

Of course, you may never erase your carbon footprint entirely when planning a green funeral, but by harnessing sustainable materials and new technologies, you can depart in a way that does justice to your love of the natural world.


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