Our article on how funerals are changing discusses how funerals are becoming more personalised and featuring fewer aspects of religion. It also discusses the dramatic increase in the number of cremations in recent years. Previously, burials had always been the most popular choice for funerals, but in 1968 cremation overtook burials as the most popular funeral method, and they have continued to grow in popularity ever since. It is now the case that around three out of four funerals are cremations. However, this trend could be starting to change again.
The growing awareness of our planet’s environmental issues is contributing to an increase in eco-friendly funerals which is evident by ‘green’ or ‘natural’ funerals becoming more popular. A significant factor in this decision process is the knowledge that cremators, on average, reach temperatures of up to 1,150°c. When you consider that this temperature is maintained for approximately 75 minutes, one cremation can use the equivalent energy of a 500 mile car trip. Many people who want to reduce the impact they have on the environment are therefore shunning cremation in favour of a more eco-friendly funeral. So, how do you make a funeral more eco-friendly?
Creating an eco-friendly funeral
There is no set definition of an environmentally friendly funeral, but there are lots of ways to make a funeral more environmentally friendly. This can be done whilst maintaining other more traditional aspects of a funeral, so for example you can make your funeral more environmentally friendly but still have the service held in a church. Firstly, you need to choose a burial service rather than a cremation. Then, one of your most important decisions will be to choose the material the coffin is made from. These days there are a wide range of materials available for your coffin to be made from rather than just wood. Coffin materials range from biodegradable cardboard to environmentally friendly materials like cane, seagrass, cocostick, banana leaves, loom, bamboo, water hyacinth or wool. Just choosing a coffin made from environmentally friendly materials will decrease your funeral’s impact on the environment. There are lots of other changes you can make to a funeral service to make it more environmentally friendly – for example, choosing a horse and cart as a hearse rather than a car, asking mourners to make a donation rather than using cut flowers, or even asking mourners to plant a tree in memory of the person who has passed away. Make sure the service, burial and funeral reception are all held near to each other so that mourners don’t have to drive between locations, and encourage mourners to travel together.
Alternatively, some people choose to be buried in woodlands that have been specifically designated for ‘natural’ funerals. A service of this kind involves the body being buried in a shroud of natural materials or materials which will easily decompose. The burial site can be marked under the direction of the burial grounds code of conduct that the site owners have agreed with the Association of Natural Burial Grounds. Typically, the marking of a natural grave will involve the use of an engraved natural stone or perhaps a plant or tree. In some cases the site owner will request that the integrity of the land is unchanged and in these scenarios GPS coordinates are given to allow friends and family to locate the burial site during future visits. These sites tend to be very peaceful and natural, and can be a far more pleasant place for loved ones to visit than cemeteries.
For more information on how funerals are changing, click here to read our article about modern funerals.