In a world where resources are becoming scarcer and multiple environmental threats are looming, many people are wondering what’s possible in making a funeral more environmentally sustainable.
Even in death, you can reduce your environmental footprint substantially if you plan ahead, and understand the choices available.
Coffins aren’t what they used to be. While you can still opt for hardwood timber, there are a range of coffins with much smaller ecological footprints. Possibilities include:
• Cardboard, wool and cotton composite materials
• Woven wicker and seagrass coffins
• Timber from plantations certified as sustainable
Many timber and cardboard coffins can be decorated with ecofriendly materials to create a unique expression of a beloved life.
Be careful in your choice. Some places will call MDF coffins “eco-friendly” – but while the wood content may be OK, most MDF is bound together by resins made of toxic formaldehyde that contaminate soil or atmosphere.
How sustainable is a burial compared to a cremation?
Many people automatically assume that burial is more sustainable option than a cremation – because burial doesn’t consume as much energy or produce as much greenhouse gas.
However, in traditional graveyard burials the conditions created by deep burial in a casket lead to the production of the potent greenhouse gas methane. There are other environmental consequences, as deep burials create substantial soil disruption. Add in the environmental overheads of ongoing graveyard maintenance such as watering, mowing and herbicide and the full environmental footprint of traditional burial is larger than most people expect.
Cremations can emit 160kg of CO2 into the atmosphere. However, that’s it. Particularly when ashes are privately scattered instead of located in formal memorial gardens, cremation can end up slightly less harmful than traditional burial.
Like coffins, cremation urns are now being made of recycled and biodegradable materials, further reducing their overall footprint.
Natural or (green) burials have been becoming more available in recent years. In a natural burial, the body is buried in a shroud rather than a coffin. Burial is in a shallow grave, often in a memorial forest which allows for natural decomposition without powerful greenhouse gases being produced. In some green burials, the grave isn’t marked physically and is only located by GPS coordinates.
Natural burial requires specific conditions to be met and an application to be approved, so it’s important to get expert advice and plan ahead.
Not sure where to start?
Are you looking for unique ways to design an authentic farewell that is a sustainable, affordable celebration of a life well lived?
Talk to our experts between 9am and 5pm, every day of the year ph. 9683-5456.