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Greener Funerals

Like everything we do, our funerals are adding to the world’s pollution crisis, and sadly the funeral industry is one of the most polluting.

This is fact, and there are a few alterations that we can all make to minimise the impact our decisions are having on the environment, even after death.

Increasingly people are realising their ethical responsibility and searching for alternative ways to cut their own carbon emissions in daily practice, such as buying local sustainably made products that can be recycled.

At the end of a life, creating a fitting Service and memorial in the name of the person who has died, whilst working in better harmony with our environment doesn’t always sit at the forefront of our minds when in the trauma of organising a funeral.

We are working towards making this an everyday practice in the funeral world. This can be as simple as making a few adjustments to a traditional service, which will have a real impact if more and more people agree to make small changes. For those who wish to go further, there are a host of options to replace our traditional often Victorian burials and cremations of the past. Sadly, families don’t always get offered them or feel they can defer from the ‘normal’ practice.

 

Greener Choices

There are kinder alternatives for the person who has died and those left behind, and ways of offering personal thought and care to your loved one without adding unnecessarily to the carbon emissions of cremation or burial.

Embalming

Bodies don’t need to be embalmed, as was standard practice in the past. The chemicals used are toxic and the process invasive, so if the Funeral Director has good quality care facilities it is not usually necessary.

Dressing and care of the person who has died
The person can be dressed using clothes made from natural fibres, and without shoes. Natural gowns or shrouds can also be used. We also have natural lotions and moisturisers which can be used to care for and clean their skin.

The Coffin

This is a big decision to be made by families.
Some people hate the thought and the sight of the traditional wooden coffin. Whilst they serve a practical purpose in the safe delivery of a loved one to their final resting place, they can be also visually cold and scary to a lot of people, and it is often the sight of the coffin that triggers our upset at a Service.

Coffins made from natural materials such as pine, seagrass, willow, bamboo, banana leaf and cardboard can soften your experience and emotional need, and will degrade naturally, causing a lot less of an impact on the environment. (Please see our products page for natural coffins).

Those who do still prefer a traditional coffin however, could perhaps choose the option of ordering it without the plastic decorative handles. Coffins fitted for cremations usually have six large plastic handles, which are not needed. This cannot be done for coffins fitted for burials however.

Opting for a coffin with no plastic is such a simple and efficient step to being kinder to the environment.
The satin inner could also be removed and replaced by a natural material, thus adding to the natural look, and being kinder in using bio-degradable products. The natural trim is slightly more expensive, but as the demand rises, the price will come down.

 

Flowers

Florists can also get on board by using bio-degradable oasis products and maybe recycling frames where possible. More families are asking for less wastage in this area now and preferring more natural flower arrangements. If less cellophane and plastic ribboning was used that would make a real difference.

Natural burials

For those who wish to go a little further in choosing a greener funeral, a natural burial would be the ideal option. More and more people are taking an interest in this now, as it makes sense to return after death to a more natural environment, and the thought of visiting a woodland area often softens the thought of a loved one’s final resting place.

In Kent there are several woodland burial sites, including Eden Valley in Edenbridge www.edenvalleyburials.org.uk or Riverview near Sittingbourne www.kent naturalburials.co.uk.
Some cemeteries also offer a greener area where natural burials can take place – we can look into this in your local area for you.

Natural burial sites require bio-degradable coffins, and propose planting of trees and wildflowers. This less clinical environment enhances the local natural scenery and offer a quiet, peaceful resting place for your loved one. This can be an enormous comfort to those left behind and aid the healing process considerably.

The cost of a natural burial is about the same as a traditional burial, but much more sustainable.

To find out more about natural burials – please take a look at the very informative Natural Death Centre website: naturaldeath.org.uk

The definition of a ‘Green Funeral’ by the Good Funeral Guide:

A green funeral

Some of the more important elements of a green funeral are these:

rejects cremation

opts for burial in a site serving a conservation purpose

creates an environment which is not visually definable as a burial ground

reviles embalming

requires a coffin or shroud locally made from natural, sustainable materials

forbids demarcation of the grave

forbids marking or personalising of the grave with any sort of permanent memorial

forbids tending of the grave

It is not the grave that commemorates the life lived, it is the entire site.

 

For more information:
https://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/what-is-a-green-funeral/

 

In Memory

There are also many ways to hold a fitting and greener memorial for a loved one.

Tree planting would help to lower carbon emissions as well as a strong earthly connection to the person who has died. In mythology different trees denote a variation of beliefs:

Hazel – Wisdom, faith, inspiration

Silver birch – Sacred- new beginnings, renewal, protection

Olive – Peace, friendship

Oak – Strength, survival

Living memorials are also part of a trend leaning towards honouring the life of a departed loved one by emphasising life, rather than death. The idea is to shift the focus away from death and towards a celebration of their life as it lives on in the memories of their friends and family.

 

For more information on tree-planting

www.nationalforest.org

www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

These ideas and meanings could bring huge comfort to people and really resonate with the personality of the person they have lost.  For a small cost you can plant a tree in their memory.

If flowers are more your thing what about helping to bring back the bees at the same time by scattering wildflowers seeds or Beebombs? The effects are stunningly wild, and the impact for bees, and subsequently us will be enormous.

Beebombs: www.beebombs.co.uk

A staggering 97% of native British wildflower habitat has been lost since World War 2.

Wildflower habitats are where bees and butterflies make their lives and are crucial to biodiversity. This is serious for Britain now, and for the future of the next generation.

With Beebombs you can re-create those lost habitats, bring back the bees, and think about your loved one at the same time. Win Win!

Remember, there is no traditional agenda to follow.  Sadly it took the world a long time to wake up to the damage we have been doing to our planet, but now we are more aware, more interested, and searching for alternative pathways to follow.

We can still celebrate the life lived in a truly personal and fitting way, but with more care to all.

We are quite open minded about your choices so please don’t be afraid to ask. We can’t promise to do it all, but we would like to think that our services encompass most of your wishes.  Please also bear in mind that even if you don’t feel comfortable doing things too differently, you can also make small changes to make your funeral greener and have less impact on the environment, and we can help you do this.

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