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What is the most environmentally friendly funeral option?

18 Apr 2023 | 3 min read time
New blog image for slug what-is-the-most-environmentally-friendly-funeral-option
New blog image for slug what-is-the-most-environmentally-friendly-funeral-option

The environment and its preservation are at the forefront of discussion these days and as a society, we have never before been so concerned with protecting the environment as we are today. For this reason, people are flocking to the internet to find out just how they can make their funeral as environmentally friendly as possible. However, it isn't always clear what is the most environmentally friendly option.

Burial vs cremation

When planning for an environmentally friendly funeral, the first thing to decide is whether to opt for burial or cremation. Although this is typically a personal choice and the carbon footprint is generally not the be all and end all of the decision-making process, burial can be considered the most-green option in most situations.

Due to the fuel required cremation is reportedly equivalent to a 500-mile car journey and has an immediate impact on the environment. Also, the various metals and elements that may be found in our bodies these days (mercury in tooth fillings or metal in joint replacements) can further increase the impact a cremation will have on the environment.

However, burials are not without environmental impact if they are not planned in the greenest way possible. Certain coffins and toxins in embalming materials can pose a serious risk to water supplies if the deceased is not buried in a suitable place. Burial also has a big impact on land usage and, as we require more land for general use, the amount of land that can be realistically spared for burials decreases. With this is mind it is difficult to compare the long-term environmental impact of burial with cremation.

Woodland burial

There is a way in which you can reduce the environmental impact of a burial, if you wish to choose it instead of cremation. Woodland burials, also known as green or natural burials, are an increasingly popular and eco-friendly option for funerals. Typically, they take place in designated woodland areas or natural burial grounds and will generally not involve the embalming of the body, a major difference in comparison with a normal burials and cremations.

Woodland burial plots are typically unmarked or marked with a natural alternative to a typical headstone, such as a tree or flowers that will, with time, blend in with the surrounding woodland. It may be difficult to find individual burial locations on woodland sites, however, many people come to see the entire wood as a memorial to their loved one.

Coffin options

When it comes to choosing a coffin, there are both environmentally friendly and unfriendly options. If you are considering a woodland burial, an environmentally friendly coffin will usually come hand-in-hand with this. These specially designed coffins will be made out of a biodegradable material such as recycled paper, willow or wicker. They will contain no fittings, screws or nails that are not natural and can often be well-designed, especially when made out of materials like bamboo or seagrass.

Water cremation

Possibly the newest and one of the most environmentally friendly options for a funeral is water cremation, a trend which has really taken off in the USA and Canada. Also known as resomation, water cremation is where flesh is broken down using a liquid solution made from potassium hydroxide before the remaining bones are pulverised. However, Britain is yet to hold its first water cremation, over concerns that the liquid by-product could contaminate the country's water system.


One of the other options if you are looking for an environmentally friendly funeral is human composting. Although it may sound scary, human composting is a new option that has recently been introduced in the United States.

The principle is simple and revolves around an accelerated composting of human remains that will present loved ones with an urn of soil rather than an urn full of ash once the process is complete. The thought behind this is that nature is the most effective method of human decomposition and one entirely natural that, in a matter of weeks, can turn a body into fertile and usable soil.

Golden Charter has one of the largest network of independent funeral directors in the UK that can advise on environmentally friendly funeral options near you. Many are long-standing, family-run businesses and all provide a compassionate and professional service. Find out more about how you can plan for your funeral with one of the funeral directors in our network. Request a free, no obligation information pack below or call 0808 169 4534.

Golden Charter

Smart Planning for Later Life

We are one of the largest funeral plan providers in the UK* and we work with over 2,900 independent funeral directors across the UK*. Many are long-standing, family-run businesses and all provide a compassionate and professional service.

Find out more about how you can plan for the future with one of the funeral directors in our network.