This article gives readers an overview of five ways to make a funeral greener. The ideas presented are 1) using sustainably sourced wood, 2) not embalming, 3) having a natural burial, 4) cremation and 5) resomation. These ideas are listed in order of difficulty from low to high. The first idea is the easiest but has the least impact on the environmental footprint of a funeral.
Increasing numbers of people leading eco-friendly lives are following them with green deaths. In the eyes of environmentalists, traditional funerals are ecological nightmares just waiting to happen. Everything from the embalming chemicals to the wood used for the coffin can and will have an impact on the earth.
Whether you are planning a funeral for yourself or for someone who has lived a green life, here are five ideas that should make your final journey a greener one. Here are some ideas ranked from low to high according to their ability to reduce the environmental impact of a funeral.
1. Look for responsibly managed wood
If you must have a wooden coffin, the greenest option is to choose one made from responsibly sourced wood. For instance, a coffin with a Sustainable Forest Management Standard sticker from the Canadian Standards Association shows you that they use timber grown in a responsibly managed forest where new trees were planted for every tree felled.
This idea is the easiest to follow but has the least reduction in environmental impact.
2. Skip the embalming chemicals
Contrary to popular belief, Canadians are not legally obliged to embalm corpses. That is excellent news for green-minded individuals because embalming chemicals, which are highly toxic, will seep into the ground as the body starts to decompose. Skipping the process altogether will mean a much greener funeral.
3. Try a natural burial or a wicker basket
If the previous two ideas aren’t radical enough for you, perhaps you might want to consider a natural burial. That means merely putting the corpse into the ground, with no embalming and no coffin, just a linen shroud or wicker basket.
A natural burial produces much less waste and has a lower environmental impact than going the traditional route with a wooden coffin. If skipping the casket seems too extreme, you can legally have a wicker basket if you choose. They are excellent ways to avoid the environmental impact of having a timber coffin constructed.
4. Turn your cremated ashes into something useful
Cremations can be green if you skip the embalming and stipulate that your body is taken out of the “show” casket once the funeral ceremony is over. Because there is no burning of chemicals, wood or metal, this method minimizes the environmental impact and the carbon footprint of the funeral.
If scattering the ashes seems like a waste, some companies will help with that too by turning the ashes into an artificial coral reef or “reef balls.”
5. Try a flameless cremation
Although sometimes derided as a way of liquefying the dead and pouring them down the drain, alkaline hydrolysis, known as resomation, creates 35% fewer environmental emissions than cremation. Also sometimes referred to as a flameless cremation, it is by far the greenest funeral solution.
Resomation forms a DNA-free, sterile liquid that can return to the water cycle and white bone ash that can go in an urn. Saskatchewan became the first province to approve this process in 2012, with Ontario and Quebec following suit.
Whether you are considering a green burial, cremation or even a resomation, this list is bound to give you a good starting point. These aren’t the only ideas for a green funeral, but they give you a good overview of your available options. Any option on this list can be tailored to suit a wide range of funeral ceremony options.
5 Green Funeral Ideas