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Death care sector ‘must change mindset’ on climate crisis

The death care sector needs to face up to the role it is playing in the escalating environmental emergency, say industry experts. 

New information has emerged about the toxicity of materials involved in body disposal, from the ecological effects of embalming fluids and coffins, through to the effects of natural body composition and even the release of mercury from tooth fillings.

The pressure to implement change is no longer coming from the smaller, eco-conscious subsections of the community alone. As of 24 February, it was reported that 300 out of a total of 404[1] district, county, unitary and metropolitan councils had so far declared a Climate Emergency, and launched aggressive plans set to be implemented by 2030. 

“Many death care professionals think that it is impossible to avoid the negative impacts on the environment completely, regardless of whether customers are opting for burials or cremations,” explains Scott Storey, Head of European Operations for OpusXenta, a global technology company serving the death care profession and its suppliers.

Earlier this year, Scott conducted a webinar The Climate Emergency: What Changes Can Crematoria, Funeral Homes and Cemeteries Make to Protect Our Environment[2]alongside Executive Officer for the FBCA Brendan Day and guests from the sector. 
Steps discussed included:

  • Pollution reduction – a single cremation generates NOx (greenhouse gas) emissions equivalent to a car travelling 2,280 miles. Burials are also problematic, due to toxic chemicals which leach into the soil
  • Preserving Ecological Habitats – the intensive maintenance of lawns and memorial plots in cemeteries and gardens of remembrance continues to damage the environment
  • Recycling – as well as composting floral tributes or the reuse of plastic, there is rainwater harvesting, solar panels and electric car charging ports
  • Energy Consumption ­– crematoria consume significant amounts of energy, and some of this can be captured and reused

Scott believes that the death care sector as a whole must accept the role it continues to play in the climate crisis. 

“The most fundamental shift needs to come in mindset, outlook and company culture. It is only by changing our perspective and considering the environmental impact of all activities undertaken that we can truly start to make the necessary changes.” 

 Executive Officer of the Federation, Brendan Day, added “We now provide our members with a free Environmental Awareness Report when we carry out compliance inspections and encourage them to adopt an environmental policy to support their efforts.”



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