Myth: Funerals can’t be environmentally friendly

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There is no doubt that traditional funerals are hard on our planet, but there are earth friendly options we can choose from when we die. According to the Green Burial Council here’s what Americans put in the ground each year through traditional burial.

  • 20 million feet of wood,
  • 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluid
  • 1.6m tonnes of reinforced concrete
  • 17,000 tonnes of copper and bronze
  • 64500 tons of steel

With cremations surpassing burials as the most popular committal choice for Americans, the environmental toll doesn’t lessen. Cremation requires a lot of fuel, and results in millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Like a lot of the commentary around other harmful environmental practices, it can be overwhelming. Take steps to get better informed.and make decisions more consciously. There is exciting progress being made and we can expect to see increasing rate of change as the funeral industry moves to reflect our desire to touch the earth lightly as we leave it.

So, what can you do?

  • Say no to embalming or opt for formaldehyde free natural embalming if available.
  • Choose an earth friendly casket; plain pine, cardboard, woven bamboo and shrouds mean less resins, varnishes and metals. These are made of non toxic biodegradable materials that break down over time.
  • If cremating, opt for an earth friendly urn.
  • Consider cremation via alkaline hydrolysis (also known as aqua cremation or water cremation). Currently available in 18 states, this is a way of dissolving the body in water and uses roughly one tenth the carbon footprint of conventional cremation. There are zero emissions from the body.
  • Think about burial in a natural burial ground or green cemetery. This avoids the use of outer containers such as liners and vaults which impede natural decomposition

Other ideas:

  • Present guests with a seedling to plant in honour of the deceased.
  • Have a basket of wildflower seeds for people to take. Encourage them to plant and help the local bee population along
  • Ensure catering is as environmentally friendly as possible. Reduce waste and minimise single use plates and utensils.

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