What are green funerals?

green funerals

Green or eco funerals are increasing in popularity, but what exactly do we mean by the term ‘green funerals’ and just how eco friendly are they?

Being green means different things to different people; for example you can be green by planting a tree to rebalance the carbon foot print; choosing an eco-friendly coffin or fully embracing the concept and opting for a fully green woodland burial.

To be ‘fully green’ if there is such a term you need to be buried and not cremated. The burial should take place in a natural woodland site; the coffin should be of natural biodegradable material and the grave unmarked. Having said that, when it actually comes down to it, most people who are interested in helping the environment with a green funeral want a balance of tradition with elements of a more eco friendly funeral.

An increasing number of people are sticking with the more traditional cremation or burial but opting for an eco friendly coffin, such as a cardboard coffin, wicker or willow coffin or perhaps Bamboo.

Unfortunately as with many things, being ‘green’ in the funeral world often means more expensive materials, so don’t be surprised by a cardboard coffin carrying a price tag of between £300 to £400, with costs of willow or wicker coffins considerably higher. Prices vary depending on the source of the material, so it is worth reviewing the various options available.


What are my options for making my funeral more eco friendly?

If cost is a consideration, then you can still reduce your carbon foot print significantly by choosing one or more of the following for your funeral service: 

Use recycled paper and materials for your funeral service stationary 

Choose a biodegradable coffin - see below for more information on eco coffins 

Don't include ‘family limousines’ to follow the hearse – walking to the funeral as opposed to using a car that generates emissions is not only green, it’s also very traditional 

Arrange to be buried in a designated natural woodland burial site 

If you prefer cremation, offset the carbon emissions by planting trees that will restore the environmental balance 

Choose not to be embalmed as this creates toxins. Most funeral directors no longer use this practice if the funeral is carried out in the normal times frames as it is viewed as invasive and unnecessary given the benefits of modern refrigeration preserving the body 

Ask for money to be donated to charity rather than flowers or wreaths 

Don’t have a memorial stone or if you do, choose a recycled stone

Use a funeral director that is as close as possible to your home


How does planting a tree reduce my carbon foot print?

woodland burialsReducing or neutralising your carbon foot print by planting a tree could be a cost effective way of sticking to a budget and having a traditional funeral whilst at the same time, helping to rebalance the earth's atmosphere by replacing the carbon dioxide generated by your funeral service. 

On average one tree will absorb around 1 tonne of carbon dioxide during its lifetime, subject of course to its size and where it’s planted. 

So the simplest and easiest way to a green funeral could be to purchase a standard funeral plan and specify within that plan that you would like a tree planted following your funeral. Alternatively the following websites offer a tree planting service so you could choose to get involved straight away rather than wait for it to be arranged on your behalf after the funeral. 

Carbon footprint 

World Land Trust 

Carbon Earth .

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Cremation or burial?

 

 

Types of eco coffins

 

If you are looking at green funerals and the eco options available to you, one of the most straightforward options is to choose your own coffin; this will also remove the painful decision making process from your family when the time comes; which is another worthwhile reason for arranging things in advance. 

You don’t have to go to your funeral director to buy an eco coffin as there are now many specialist websites offering coffins from £150 to over £2,000. If you do go ahead and buy in advance though, you may need to check that your funeral director will be happy to use it as some companies will only use coffins ordered directly through them. You also need to think about where you will store the coffin. 

If like many you do not want to pre-purchase an eco coffin, just state which type you would prefer, you can do this by documenting it as part of your ‘final wishes’ in either your Will (be aware though that this may not be read until after the funeral) or a prepaid funeral plan. 

cardboard coffinsCardboard coffins: you would be forgiven for thinking that a cardboard coffin would be a cheaper option but alas this couldn’t be further from the truth. Cardboard coffins range from around £300 to more than £500, depending on whether you want a plain single colour; a colourful landscape or image (think Hayleys coffin in Coronation Street) or something more bespoke and personal. 

Willow coffins: depending on whether it's a Chinese import or English wicker, willow coffins range from £350 to £1,200 

Bamboo coffins: woven bamboo coffins are increasing in popularity priced at around £400. 

Shrouds: it's not a legal requirement to have a hard, traditionally shaped coffin that has sides and a lid so a shroud is an alternative option. 

Ashes casket: if you prefer cremation, you could choose to have your ashes returned in a biodegradable casket..

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Natural burial grounds

 

Woodland burial sites can be found dotted around the country if you are looking for a green eco friendly alternative to the traditional cemetery. 

Whether you are considering a natural burial, or having your ashes buried or scattered, a woodlands cemetery offers a beautiful natural place to be remembered. 

For those looking for cremation, a woodlands cemetery may also have a woodlands crematorium on site, so you can choose to have the full service in one place rather than being cremated at a traditional crematorium before having your ashes interred. 

Typically graves are marked with a simple plaque or more commonly the planting of a tree. 

There are 270 natural burial grounds in the UK, so if you are considering this option, you should check for your closest and visit beforehand so you can be sure it's what you want. There are usually a range of plot types to select from so you can choose the location you prefer and of course the price tag you are happy with.   

You can find your nearest natural woodland burial ground here, and here is a list of some of the most popular options: 

Chiltern Woodland Burial Park 

Colney WoodlandBurial Park 

Sun Rising Burial Ground 

Dalton Natural Burial Ground 

Leedam Natural Heritage

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The Natural Death Centre

If you would like to find out more about green funerals and natural burial sites the Natural Death Centre website is an independent source offering advice and guides.

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Are green funeral plans a good idea?

This all depends on just how ‘green’ you want your green funeral to be? 

Mainstream funeral plans offer a set of pre-arranged services that do not take into account eco funeral elements, although you can add these at an additional cost. Having said that if you want a fully green funeral plan option, then a bespoke plan can be created for you. 

An alternative to creating your own bespoke plan is to opt for a prepaid plan from Dignity, as all their funeral plans are 100% carbon neutral and they were the first provider to be certified as offering a Carbon Neutral Service. 

Golden Leaves offer specific green funeral plans, but these can work out between £400 to £600 more expensive than a traditional funeral plan, so you might as well opt for a traditional plan and add an eco friendly coffin as an extra. Plus Golden Leaves Green Funeral plans do not include your cremation and ministers fees. 

It’s also worth mentioning that an "eco friendly coffin" doesn't necessarily mean it will produce less emissions when cremated, as advised by the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management, as some will produce greater toxins and require more energy. 

As with all prepaid funeral plans, a green variation, still offers the same 2 key benefits; firstly you are purchasing the plan at today's prices and secondly, you are saving your family from the stress of arranging your funeral when the time comes..

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How do I get more information on green funerals?

For more information, please complete the brochure request and tell us your green requirements so we can give you an indication of costs..

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