The funeral industry has seen a rise in the number of 'green burials', new coffin types, and natural burial grounds in response to changing demands. Perhaps it's easy to see why people are beginning to consider how their funeral can affect the environment. Every year, around 396,200 cremations take place in the UK, with a single cremation alone using on average 181 litres of fuel - that's over 68 million litres of fuel! The concept of a green funeral is simple - embalming using formaldehyde and other chemicals is not allowed, and only biodegradable caskets and coffins are used. The overall aim is to have as little environmental impact as possible - something which may appeal to those striving to live their day to day lives in an eco-conscious way.
New types of coffin
A hardwood casket, which is one of the most expensive types of caskets, takes 130-150 feet of lumber to produce. Add in the metal, cloth, varnishing, and workmanship and you're looking at paying thousands of pounds for a casket alone. Coffins made from cardboard and other natural materials are significantly less expensive, and they also have less of an impact on the environment. A cardboard coffin produces 90% less carbon emissions during a cremation than a standard wooden coffin, and they're also are 100% biodegradable, making them suitable for both burials and cremations. If you're looking for something entirely different, you can even opt for a coffin made from wool -- and you wouldn't be the only one, with a 700% rise in demand in 2012.
At the simplest level, a natural (or green) burial means that the body is buried using natural materials that won't harm the earth. In practice, this means that the body is buried in a coffin that will biodegrade without releasing toxic chemicals into the soil and ground. There are even alternatives to the traditional coffin -- Italian company, Capsula Mundi, has produced biodegradable burial pods that can be used instead. The burial pods are placed into the ground and a tree is planted on top which means that as the pods break down, the tree is provided with nutrients. That's one way of ensuring a sustainable legacy!
Natural burial grounds
For some, choosing a coffin sourced from natural materials is only one step in ensuring an environmentally friendly funeral. The next step is finding a place to be buried that is sustainable. The Natural Death Centre refers to these places as 'natural burial grounds', with recent figures indicating that there are 270 sites across the UK, varying from memorial gardens to woodlands and open meadows. They're very different to cemeteries as they don't have marble headstones, and only biodegradable coffins are put into the earth. The body also cannot be embalmed due to the chemicals involved. The process of finding the right burial ground can take some time, but these calm and open areas appeal to people looking to add another personal touch to their funeral. If you've always loved the outdoors, then a natural burial ground would certainly be one way to pay tribute to this.
Eco-friendly choices offer alternatives to a traditional funeral, and it seems that a lot of people prefer the idea of an ecologically-aware send off. If you have a funeral plan in place, you don't need to stick to traditional funeral arrangements and you may want to incorporate some of these green elements to suit your needs.