Ideas for a greener funeral

There are many aspects of modern life where we can be more eco-friendly, and in recent years, many more of us are considering the environmental impact of our funeral.

Greener funerals
Greener funerals

Pic: Getty

If you are keen on the idea of a greener funeral, here are some of the issues and choices to consider.

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Choosing a coffin
Traditional coffins use valuable resources and energy, and many are manufactured and shipped long distances, adding to their environmental impact further.

There are, however, greener options available. Look for coffins made from a sustainable source, which should be labelled by organisations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). Alternatively, research biodegradable coffins made from materials such as wicker, bamboo or recycled cardboard. If you would prefer a wood coffin, ensure that it contains no non-biodegradable materials such as plastics or metals. Toxic paints and varnishes are best avoided if you have chosen a cremation, as these create emissions.

Green burials
A greener coffin will go a long way to reducing the environmental impact of your funeral, but you can also make changes to the funeral itself. Don't be afraid to ask your funeral director for advice on how to make the ceremony greener, but even simple things like a home-grown floral tribute to decorate the coffin or graveside, or hiring a communal vehicle to transport people to the funeral or wake in one group can make a difference.

There are also natural or woodland burials available. They offer people the choice of being buried in a green field or woodland burial site, in a biodegradable coffin, and instead of a headstone, a simple stone or wooden plaque marks the grave. Some prefer the idea of planting a tree at or near to the grave site.

Greener cremations
A majority of 70 per cent of Britons now choose cremation, but the emissions caused can impact the environment. As well as choosing a greener coffin without any toxic additions, swapping man-made fabric clothing for natural fibres, and leaving shoes, plastic or metal out of the coffin will be kinder to the environment. Some crematoria will even allow you to do away with the coffin altogether and opt for a natural fibre shroud.

Scattering the ashes
In many cases, the relatives like to scatter their loved one's ashes somewhere that has a special place in their heart. While the ashes themselves are unlikely to impact the environment to any great extent, there are things to consider.

Avoid scattering ashes on mountain tops where they can affect plant life, and though disposing of them over water will not harm the water quality, the Environment Agency advises against sites that are near buildings, people bathing or fishing, or marinas. You should also be at least 1km upstream of any abstraction of water, but you can check this with your local Environment Agency office.
Whatever site you choose, do consider other people who may be using the area, and try to avoid windy days. Personal items and wreaths should not be left in the water or at your chosen site, as they may contain plastic or metal parts that can harm wildlife. If you would prefer that the ashes are buried, consider using a biodegradable container that will break down underground.

It may not be something many of us want to think about, but if you are concerned about the environment, you may want to plan your own greener funeral, stating your wishes for family members.

Would you consider a greener funeral? Leave your comments below...