All of us are being asked to make more environmentally conscious choices in our lives every day. Naturally, few of us will consider the environmental impact that our deaths and funerals have on the planet. A single cremation generates an equal amount of CO2 to a 500 mile car journey. The wood veneers on many coffins, and preservative ointments deposited inside them, leak toxic chemicals into soil structures. Yet the environmental impact of funerals goes largely unseen.
There are several ways to reduce the carbon footprint around a funeral dramatically, so it has a minimal effect on nature.
Eco-friendly funerals detailed in a funeral plan give customers control of their carbon footprint and ecological impact as they depart this world.
Green funerals can be arranged as part of a prepaid funeral plan bought from Rest Assured Funeral Plans.
They also allow customers to leave a lasting positive influence on their nearest and dearest, about how they feel life is best lived and left.
And, like all other funeral plans, eco-friendly funeral plans freeze funeral prices at today’s best rates so customers and their families avoid a more inflated cost of dying later.
Here are ten ways to add an eco-friendly touch to a funeral plan so you can reduce your funeral’s environmental impact by going out in the greenest way possible:
- Source funeral services locally
Arranging a funeral requires input from several services which combine to create the occasion.
All suppliers will incur mileage in delivering their aspect of the funeral and reducing their fuel consumption is a way to make your funeral greener.
Choosing the closest location for a funeral service to your home, or where it generates the least travel for mourners, reduces the carbon emissions created by a funeral.
Choosing florists, caterers and funeral directors based near to the location of your funeral or final resting place cuts the carbon foot print of their necessary journeys to deliver it.
Buying local and using a local funeral director reduces the environmental damage done by a funeral.
- Choose a burial over cremation
Cremation was thought to be the more eco-friendly way to go, because it didn’t need open land for burial.
However, many pollutants are released into the atmosphere during the cremation process. Every cremation releases approximately 400kg of CO2 into the atmosphere along with other toxic gases.
Human ashes are not biodegradable either. Their mineral contents can adversely affect plant life and the composition of soil. High in sodium and pH levels, they must be treated before they can help vegetation to flourish on top of them.
Burial has less impact on the environment, especially when it uses as many natural materials as possible in the process.
- Cut out the chemicals
The funeral process – from collection to care to committal – can involve the use of strong chemicals.
Embalming fluid, made from formaldehyde, preserves the body and postpones the appearance of death. It also seeps into the ground and pollutes soil.
The UK has no legal requirement to use it. Rest Assured customers can request refrigeration only in a funeral plan, for a greener alternative.
The production of cut flowers requires pesticides and fertilisers that end up in soil and compost too. Mourners can plant a tree or bush as a suitable alternatives to flowers.
The upkeep of church graveyards also requires weed killers and pesticides but more natural burial spots are left to re-wild without them.
- Have a compostable coffin
A funeral cannot be truly eco-friendly if its coffin is made from metal or wood veneer. These materials create toxic gases in furnaces and pollute the land.
Traditional wooden coffins can be considered truly eco-friendly but they are made from long-established trees that must be felled and chopped with big machinery.
There are more modern and sustainable material options available for a coffin. The most natural biodegradable coffins are hand-crafted from willow, rattan, banana leaf or bamboo.
Biodegradable coffins are also available in cardboard and papier-mâché, in a range of colours and in designs to be decorated with photos and artwork by family.
- Have a woodland burial
Woodland burials, also known as natural burials and green burials, take place in designated areas of natural forest or meadow.
Natural burial sites are managed to be as close to wilderness as possible. They protect natural woodland and fields, and encourage flora and fauna to thrive.
Most woodland burial grounds don’t permit embalming to avoid soil pollution and only allow biodegradable coffins and shrouds.
They don’t allow grave markers other than a tree or flowers as part of the natural environment.
Loved ones usually consider the entire designated area to be a natural memorial to their loved one.
More than 270 natural burial grounds exist in the UK. Plot fees range from hundreds to thousands of pounds. Internment fees are an extra cost of several hundred.
- Car share for the service
Placing a request in your funeral plan for mourners to car share, take public transport or cycle to your send-off is another way to go green with your funeral.
Person-to-person car sharing, car share clubs and digital apps like Karshare are growing in popularity across the UK.
By encouraging mourners to travel together you reduce the carbon footprint created by fuel consumption to and from your funeral service, and other events associated with it.
You may also ask mourners to travel in electric vehicles if they can. Many hearses and limousines are now electric too.
Expressing these wishes for friends and family to travel green to your send-off is simple with a Rest Assured funeral plan.
- Use a biodegradable urn
If you prefer to be cremated and then have your ashes buried then eco-friendly cremation urns cause minimal damage to the environment.
The biodegradable urns are made from sustainable materials and dissolve slowly into the ground to become part of the natural environment.
Typically made from natural materials like recycled papier-mâché, cardboard, willow or even rock salt, some contain a seeded soil mix.
Urns that come with a seed or seedling attached can be buried in a meaningful locations to create a memorial.
Biodegradable urns can cost anything from £40 to £450 and many natural burial enclosures have designated areas for burying them.
- Use a mushroom burial suit
The idea of reconnecting with the earth appealed to Hollywood heart throb Luke Perry so much that he was laid to rest in a mushroom burial suit.
Tailored like an ordinary suit, mushroom burial suits are threaded with mushroom spores which go on to grow from the body as fungi and accelerate decomposition.
Spore root on a culture medium, applied in liquid form like an embalming ointment. Mushrooms grow after the two parts combine.
The growth of fungi also neutralises toxins and heavy metals that are released from the body after death.
Speeding the release your body’s nutrients into surrounding land through a mushroom burial suit will cost approximately £1000.
9. Donate your body to science
Donating your body to medical science cuts all funeral expenses and is an eco-friendly way to go.
It negates a funeral’s carbon footprint and avoids soil pollution caused by toxic materials use in the burial process.
Many bodies donated to science are used in forensic studies to determine the rate of bodily decomposition under specific conditions. Others are used to further research into cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Medical schools use donated human bodies to teach students anatomy and surgical techniques too.
In most cases, the remains of bodies donated for the advancement of science and medicine are cremated and returned to family as ashes in an urn.
- Be buried at sea
Anyone can buy a £175 license from the UK’s Marine Management Organisation and be buried legally at sea.
Applicants must show a certificate from a doctor that a body is clear of disease and infection. Bodies are given an identification tag, cannot be embalmed and their clothing must be lightweight and biodegradable.
Coffins must be made from solid softwood and no plastic, lead, copper or zinc. To ensure they sink quickly to the seabed, two-inch (50mm) holes are drilled throughout, and a 200kg weight is attached.
Three legal locations for sea burial exist in the UK – Newhaven in East Sussex, The Needles Spoil Ground near the Isle of Wight and Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear. Applicants may propose another site.
Anyone can scatter ashes at sea without a licence.
For more information about Rest Assured Funeral Plans and how we ensure every customer is happy with the funeral plan they buy, please contact Rest Assured Plans on 0800 065 4514