What is a ‘Green Funeral’?
There is no one clear definition of what constitutes a ‘green funeral’ but in recent years we have seen a notable increase in families choosing to add in or request more sustainable elements to the funeral service.
This might be something as simple as requesting recycled paper for an order of service, bringing flowers from the garden or a more significant choice, such as a woodland or natural burial.
One of the very visible changes you may have seen is the choice of a locally produced wicker or plain wooden style coffin to reflect the personality and beliefs of the deceased, as well as a move towards a more environmentally friendly option when choosing an ashes urn or container for families who opt for cremation.
Coffins are evolving to meet environmental standards
Another interesting change has been the growth of card or paper-based coffins, which some tests show produce less pollution during cremation than chipboard or particle board equivalents.
Alongside this, a number of coffin manufacturers are working to remove plastic components, such as handles and plaques, replacing them with wooden or plant-based alternatives that are both functional and decorative.
This is happening in response to the growing body of science that points to the need to protect air, soil and water from industrial pollution.
In terms of burial and cremation, both can have an impact on the environment. If you’re opting for a natural burial, it’s important to choose a coffin that is biodegradable.
For a cremation, it’s preferable to use a crematorium that has NOx gas abatement technology where possible, as this will minimise air pollution by nitrogen oxide greenhouse gases. If your local crematorium is currently without this technology, a cardboard coffin can be used instead to help lower emissions.
Fear not, there are a range of suppliers providing cardboard coffins that, to all intents and purposes, look identical to wooden coffins, meeting the ceremonial needs of families.
Environmental choices are a key part of personalisation
As with every funeral, its uniqueness lies in the way it is personalised to celebrate the individuality of the life that has passed. Indeed, personalisation has been a major trend in funerals in recent years and a significant part of that centres around the environmental choices people make.
It’s no longer the case that only committed eco-warriors opt for a green funeral. As awareness of the climate and nature crises grows within the wider population, so too does mainstream consumer appetite for businesses to respond accordingly.
Adopting a greener approach across our business
But the environmental changes in the funeral profession are not just led by the families we serve. Our family business actively works behind the scenes to eliminate our own carbon footprint by reducing paper use through digitisation, choosing environmentally friendly products in our day-to-day work wherever we can and of course, shopping locally.
Sourcing services and products nearby not only directly benefits our community but it reduces shipping mileage, something that is a large part of the provision of funeral service across the country.
Changes in transport and digital technology are making a difference
Thankfully, to help with the environmental impact of travel we are seeing an increase in the supply of hybrid and fully electric vehicles specifically designed for the funeral profession. As we move forward we look to continue to lower our transport impact.
We also encourage mourners to consider car sharing and public transport where possible and appropriate, in order to reduce the environmental impact of funerals. Sharing the transport burden also makes sense in an age of high fuel costs.
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of livestreaming technology at funerals and this has been truly appreciated by many families with long-distance relatives who would not otherwise be able to attend funerals.
On the topic of digitisation, tech has played a large part in ‘going green’ with online obituaries becoming standard, whilst the increasing use of smartphones and tablets in place of brochures and funeral specific software systems has helped to reduce our use of paper.
We’re also taking steps to make our buildings as energy efficient as possible and are switching/have switched to renewable electricity tariffs to further lessen our impact.
Proud to be part of a movement towards more environmentally friendly funerals
Beyond our business we belong to the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), the largest trade association in the UK dedicated to supporting family-run funeral businesses and their clients.
SAIF is helping to drive awareness among the wider funeral profession of the need to deliver more environmentally friendly funerals. In addition to lobbying the Government for more support and advice in relation to the green transition, SAIF also promotes the topic at its events.
As you can see there is a big push to make funerals more environmentally friendly. It’s our opinion that eventually, all funerals will be required to meet certain environmental standards, as society and the wider economy shift to a more sustainable footing.
What is considered a green option today will become the norm. Our role is to help families make the transition sensitively and without causing distress at a time of grief.
If you have any questions about making your funeral more environmentally friendly, please don’t hesitate to contact us.