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Opting for the eco choice

As many consumers focus on green living and reducing their carbon footprint, it’s only natural that we’re seeing an increase in eco-funerals. Gareth Coles, director of Coles Funeral Directors, discusses the latest options available and why more of us should consider offering more green options.

Give back to nature

Not only can eco-funerals help reduce your environmental impact, they can also contribute to the environment. One example of this is the Eternal Reefs project, which sees cremated remains transformed into ‘reef balls’ used to support marine life. Projects such as these are incredibly important, particularly as our reefs as deteriorating.

However, if you’d rather stay land-based you could opt for bio-degradable urns, designed to host a tree seed. Once buried, this tree begins to grow and the urn decomposes, becoming a fertiliser for the tree, seeing new life created from the one that has come to an end.  

Eco-friendly coffins

One of the major shifts in ‘green’ funerals is the rise in eco-friendly coffins. In 2018, the Guardian reported that a funeral was held with a flat-pack coffin that you can construct and decorate yourself which won the first Dutch ‘final footprint award’ with its designs for a ‘CO2-neutral’ casket. Not only does this help reduce environmental impact but can also help people to deal with grief as they work to decorate the coffin and, in some cases, assemble this for the loved one lost.

Although this may not be the preferred approach for all, other eco-friendly options include partly recycled and biodegradable coffins, and those made from wool, willow and cardboard. And these are the preferred choice for green cemeteries.

Taking to the woodlands

One of the most popular green choices is a woodland burial, taking place in natural burial grounds or a designated woodland burial site. As mentioned, this will usually involve a biodegradable coffin or casket, often made out of recycled paper, wicker or willow.

Some burial sites will not allow the embalming process to take place as this may pollute the ground and often there will be no headstone, but a tree or a wooden plaque will be planted to mark the space for a ‘living’ memorial. This has grown in popularity over the past two decades, with the first natural burial ground opened at Carlisle cemetery in 1993.

Now, there are more than 300 across the UK, with 77% of funeral directors stating that they have access to a green funeral site (as of 2017). In Wales, this includes Usk Castle Chase Natural Meadow and Cardiff & Vale Natural Burial Meadow. 

Follow the celebrity example

Many celebrities are leading the way in the green funeral movement. Body Shop founder, Dame Anita Roddick’s funeral was famously 100% eco-friendly in 2007, seeing her cremated in an eco-pod coffin made from bio-degradable shrubs. It even had special filters designed to reduce mercury emissions used during the cremation. And even nightclub boss Peter Stringfellow made his resting place a 72-acre woodland park in Buckinghamshire.

As more individuals in the spotlight opt for these choices, we predict that this will continue to rise on the consumer agenda. 

Gareth Coles

With traditional graveyards expected to be full by 2033, many will be in search of alternative options. As green funeral choices and affordability continue to grow, we predict that this will become more of the ‘norm’ for funeral planning. 
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Sources: The Guardian, The Telegraph, Funeral Zone, Golden Charter

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