Funeral Experts

About Eco Funerals

About Eco Funerals

An eco-friendly funeral is an alternative to traditional burials and funeral services. These funerals produce less harmful materials and waste during the burial process. Apart from being environmentally friendly, these funerals offer a more natural and outdoor setting for the memorial service. Probably somewhere that your loved one may have held dear to them before they passed.

Environmental Impact of the “Traditional” Funeral

In the UK today, 77% of deaths are followed by Cremation. As well as being a cost-effective method of committal compared to burial, it’s popularity is also due to how flexible you can be in terms of memorialisation after the fact, and – among Britons in the 60’s – became hugely popular after The Pope lifted the ban on cremations for Roman Catholics.

However, environmentally, cremation is a disaster. Each cremation releases 400kg of CO2 into the atmosphere, along with a host of other fumes (caused by prosthetics, common coffin materials, and the treasures left in with the deceased at point of cremation). 

As for traditional burials – that are arguably harmless on a the emissions front – cause environmental issues themselves. Embalming fluids have been known to leak into groundwater from those who have been embalmed before burial. Burial space is limited, particularly in urban areas, causing overcrowding. 

Eco Funerals: The Premise

The premise of Eco-Funerals is to mitigate the environmental impact of the committal of a body after death. Right away, this usually involves a Burial (however, there are alternatives as we’ll explore below…).

Eco-Funerals are gaining popularity as society at large becomes more aware of its impact on the environment. We want to lead lives that are environmentally conscious, making little changes to improve our relationship with the environment. It affects our choice of transportation (Electric car, over petrol. Bus, over car. Walk, over bus!), food and drink (people who identify as vegan has quadrupled between 2014 and 2019), and even the clothes we wear (sustainable fashion brands have grown – while still only a small share of the market, its’ revenue has doubled since 2014). 

Our funerals should be a reflection of our lives. Indeed, in 2017, one in seven funerals in the UK were eco/woodland funerals. 

Not only is the committal itself a source of consideration when it comes to eco-funerals, transportation is worth thinking about. Does your funeral director offer a horse-drawn hearse, or motor hearses run on electricity? Is the funeral directors’ premises run on sustainable sources of energy?

Eco-Funeral: Committal in a Natural Burial Ground

To meet the rising demand for eco-funerals, private land has been converted into meadows and fields suitable for burial,and woodland landscaping (either privately owned by companies or funeral directors themselves). We now have over 360 of them in the UK!

Natural burial grounds as above tend to have strict rules about memorialisation and materials used than municipal cemeteries. For example, most will only permit simple wooden grave markers, instead of large headstones.

Often, only coffins made from natural, easily degradable materials will be permitted (such as wicker/willow, bamboo, cardboard), although some families opt not to have a coffin at all (the deceased is instead wrapped in a shroud; note that a coffin is not always necessary for a traditional funeral, either!)

In municipal cemeteries, graves are dug using heavy machinery. In natural/woodland burial ground, graves are dug by hand. 

Embalming is also discouraged. 

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Alternatives to Natural Burial

  • If you’d like to go ahead with a cremation, you can choose to inter the ashes in a biodegradable urn – sometimes they come with wildflower seeds scattered in the walls (there are coffins available made of the same material). It’s a nice thought to have your loved ones’ ashes be part of the growth of something beautiful.
  • Resomation/Alkaline Hydrolysis is a process of reducing the body to bones by dissolving and treating the soft tissue around it. The bones are then dried and broken down – much like in cremation. It’s been gaining traction in the USA, but as yet there is only one provider in the UK (the by-products of the process need filtering into the water system, and this has not been permitted as yet).
  • You could donate your body to a medical school or for research. Although there are strict rules about how a person dies and how they are kept before they can be accepted by a school, it’s an option worth exploring.After the research/training has been carried out, the remains are often cremated, or allowed to be returned to the family.

    Students will often hold a memorial service for those they have been working with at the end of the school year to commemorate those who have kindly made their donation.

In the future, have a look out for…:

  • Human Composting
  • Mushroom Suits
  • Promession

About FuneralExperts.com

FuneralExperts.com helps you to compare funeral directors based on:

  • Their location
  • Their standardised fees 

We do not endorse or make recommendations about individual funeral directors, but we do offer you the tools to make those decisions yourself. 

We’ll guide you through the very first steps of any funeral arrangement, outlining the decisions you’ll have and the different options for each. We’ll help by:

  • By collecting yours and your loved ones’ details
  • Laying out the pros and cons between a burial or cremation
  • Offering the decisions you’ll make to help choose where you’d like the burial or cremation to happen
  • Working out what your preferred date and time for the funeral will be
  • Sharing the assessment tools you might use to choose which Funeral Director to entrust your funeral to

Our aim is to pair as many families as possible to the best funeral director for their individual needs. 

As much as we’re a funeral price comparison service, we also aim to educate the public on the funeral industry as a whole. When the time inevitably comes that the funeral industry is needed, our clients are well-equipped with the language and understanding they need to give their loved one the best funeral possible. 

Published by Maddison Pilcher

I've been working in 'Death' since 2014. I've seen the very best work the funeral profession can offer and now want to share it with anyone who will listen! Passionate about frank, open discussions about end of life care planning, and the importance of excellent care after death.

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