Over 50 million people die, worldwide, each year and unfortunately most of their funerals are damaging to the environment in some way. With global warming and the destruction of natural habitats becoming a bigger issue in our society, more and more people are turning to eco-friendly funerals.
For a funeral to be defined as 'eco-friendly' it should follow these broad criteria:
- No cremation
- The burial plot shouldn't visibly impact the environment
- The burial should, if possible, serve a purpose to nature
- Coffin or shroud should be made from natural, biodegradable materials
- Burial site shouldn't be personalised or marked
The guidelines are quite simple, focused on combatting CO2 emissions created through cremation and giving the body a final purpose, and there is a host of different ways you can follow them to hold a more eco-friendly funeral. Here are a few ways to make your last act on earth safer for the planet.
Organic burial pods
It is possible to 'grow' yourself into a tree using organic burial pods. The body is placed in the foetal position in a 'pod' and buried underground. A seed is then planted above the pod and, as it grows, is nourished by the body, with a tree growing to mark the burial spot and improve the environment.
Become part of a coral reef
Even though cremation isn't the most eco-friendly method, you can help make up for it by transforming your cremated remains into a reef ball. The world's coral reefs are depleting fast - half of the Great Barrier Reef has vanished in the last 30 years. Your remains could be used to support the ever-diminishing reef life, added to the concrete mix which is being used to encourage coral growth and give future generations the chance to enjoy the coral reefs.
Recycle yourself into a usable object
You can, within reason, choose to have your ashes transformed into almost any object. This could include a small diamond, a pencil, a vinyl record, a vase, wine - the list is potentially endless. This form of memorial can be particularly poignant, as your ashes can be tailored into something your loved ones will cherish such as a favourite song, a beautiful ornament or even memorial jewellery.
Biodegradable shrouds and coffins
You may prefer an environmentally friendly leaf shroud and a cardboard coffin - the latter of which is made from factory waste. There are many types of eco-friendly shrouds available including cotton, wool and banana leaves. If you really would prefer a wooden coffin then there are models available that use 80% recycled wood and 20% FSC certified wood with an eco-friendly cotton lining.
It's important to remember to uphold your eco-friendly stance at the events around the funeral, including the wake. This could mean holding a vegetarian or vegan wake or sourcing food from local farms using the Food Assembly or your local independent shops. The Food Assembly has boomed in popularity in the past five years in the UK so there's likely to be a regular event in your area.
Some people also choose not to have any flowers at their funeral, instead, asking mourners to donate to a favourite charity. For anyone looking for a UK-based environmental charity, Golden Charter has supported the Woodland Trust for over 20 years, raising more than over £1 million in that time and helping to plant 300,000 trees across the UK.
There are many ways you can ensure your funeral is eco-friendly and many of the funeral directors in Golden Charter's network can offer advice on eco-friendly funerals, from green coffins to woodland burials. To find out how we can help with your later life planning needs, request a free info pack, or call us on 0808 169 4534.