If you are a keen environmentalist, making sure to recycle, buy organic and minimize your carbon footprint, it only makes sense to ensure your funeral and burial are just as green once you pass away. After all, our bodies are a significant part of the food chain which we have consumed from throughout our lives, so returning them to the earth is the ultimate form of recycling and the best way to give back to the planet. Many eco conscious individuals are now taking steps to ensure a green funeral once they pass away.
Discuss your wishes with your loved ones
If having a green funeral when you pass away is important to you, it is vital to discuss your intentions with your loved ones. Often, the upsetting process of funeral arrangement is rushed, with only the key details considered, so make sure any instructions are made clear and simple. It is a good idea to clarify your wishes with your family and consider adding a clause to your will which informs your family of the greenest actions to take when arranging the ceremony and burial.
Cremation or burial?
While cremation doesn’t always have the most eco friendly connotations, improvements have been made within some crematoriums to reduce the levels of energy consumed as well as the output of carbon emissions. Crematoriums can become more efficient by only switching on their burners when enough bodies are ready to be cremated during that day, which preserves the lifespan of the burners as well as minimizing the levels of gas needed for the cremation process. If you choose to be cremated, it is worth discussing which crematoriums are following these initiatives.
While steps are being taken to make cremation a more eco friendly process, nothing is more natural and organic than your body returning to the earth to decompose. While this process is generally a better choice for reducing your environmental impact, restrictions on coffin types and materials often reduce the benefits that burials can deliver to the planet. Dense and heavily painted or varnished wood, as well as concrete caskets can all slow down the decomposition process, and the practice of embalming or preservation halts this process almost entirely whilst also adding chemicals such as formaldehyde into the earth and water systems. A good green funeral director will offer cardboard, bamboo or wicker coffins, or even shrouds for your burial, which allow the decomposition process to take place at a natural speed, returning nutrients into the earth and feeding organisms in the soil which are necessary for new life to grow.
If you choose to be buried, the location of your burial site can also have implications on the overall impact of your funeral. The Green Burial Council have set the world’s first standards and certification for burial grounds. Burial grounds carrying this certification are rated one, two or three leaf ratings based on the degree of eco friendly initiatives they enforce, ranging from using fully decomposable coffins to actively conserving the vegetation and wildlife of the area.
Choosing a centralized location to minimize long distance travel to the ceremony will reduce carbon emissions, as will encouraging guests to share lifts between venues. Often, a funeral can be kept all inclusive, meaning that the ceremony and burial or cremation take place in the same place, reducing the need for excessive transport in between venues.
A living marker
Having a tree or shrub planted as a living memorial is a good alternative to stone or marble grave markers. A plant will absorb CO2 from the atmosphere while supporting wildlife and sustaining a healthy local eco system. A living tribute also makes your burial area a more pleasant place for mourners to come and remember you.
Like any larger scale event, a funeral ceremony can have a significant impact upon the environment. Reducing transport to, from and in between locations can help cut back on carbon emissions, so encourage guests to share lifts where possible. Remember to pay attention to the smaller details. Any programmes, song sheets or other handouts can be made from non-bleached, recycled paper, and providing locally sourced, organic refreshments also reduces the levels of waste packaging required.
If flowers are to be used for decoration, choose a local and organic option which has not been transported great distances or required the use of pesticides. Cut flowers may look attractive but are often grown on a mass scale overseas and require a lot of excess packaging and transport. Decorating the venue with living plants can be a more eco friendly option and the plants can be kept after the ceremony as a memento by any family or friends. Choosing to have guests donate to a good cause instead of buying flowers is also a good alternative, cutting back on the wastage of resources and ensuring that more good can be done with the donated funds.
A funeral is a difficult time for all involved, but if you want your funeral and legacy to include all the environmentally friendly efforts you have made during your life, make sure your loved ones are well informed about the number of changes that can be made to a traditional funeral in order for it to have a more positive environmental impact.
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