Going Green: Choose an environmentally friendly funeral

A willow casket. Photo: Studio Porto SabbiaA willow casket. Photo: Studio Porto Sabbia
A willow casket. Photo: Studio Porto Sabbia
Google ‘eco friendly funerals’ and you get well over half a million results. Death might be something we’re not very good at talking about in this country but your loved ones will be very grateful if you have set out your wishes.

A green or environmentally friendly funeral isn’t really something that comes onto a lot of people’s radars but there are many greener options available. Dependent on what you or your loved one wants, more and more people are planning their own funerals and factoring in the planet with the decisions they make.

A green burial has little environmental impact. People can be buried in a natural coffin often made from bamboo, willow, strong cardboard or even wool which are all biodegrade – there’s even the option for just a shroud rather than a coffin. People select seasonal flowers and ask mourners to donate to charity rather than bring bouquets to the service.

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While lots of people opt for a plaque in a memorial garden, you can choose to have a tree planted instead. You can even opt for electric hearses should you choose.

In terms of which is better environmentally then the answer is burial. Crematoriums use a lot of energy so they are pretty bad for the environment compared with burials. However, there is new technology available to reduce the impact of cremations.

Earlier this summer, the Co Op became the first funeral care provider in the UK to offer water cremation or resonation as it’s known by its official name.

Legal in 28 states in the US and certain parts of Canada, Australis and the Netherlands are adopting it.

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The process involves a large pressurised water chamber. The water is heated to 160 Celsius but the pressure prevents the water from boiling. A small amount – five percent of the total volume – of chemicals called potassium or sodium hydroxide are added which effectively speed up the natural process of decomposition from around twelve years to just four hours.

Bones turn into pure calcium phosphate which can be scattered like ashes would be.

With around 80 percent of people in the UK currently opting for cremation, water cremation could make a huge difference – especially considering it’s estimated that one single cremation puts around 190kg of carbon into the air which is the equivalent of driving around 470 miles in a car.

There’s something about funerals and death we don’t like dealing with as Brits but if you decide to, there are so many ways you can continue to care about the environment even when you’re gone. If you haven’t made a will yet, many environmental charities offer a free, will writing service if you would like to leave a legacy to them as well. If the environment iss something you feel strongly about, it’s worth researching or talking to your loved ones about your choices.