Leaving a lighter footprint when we die – carbon friendly funeral choices.

23rd November 2021#environmental#planning-ahead
Leaving a lighter footprint when we die – carbon friendly funeral choices.

Sarah Wickham

Marketing Coordinator/Landowner

Following the conclusion of Cop26, we thought it would be helpful to talk through the ways we can make eco friendly and carbon friendly funeral choices.

Funeral practices are often overlooked when we consider living sustainably. Yet, what we choose to do when we die is very much a part of life. This is because the choices we make leave a lasting impact on the planet and the people we love, even when we are gone.

Some of the more traditional funeral practices are not eco-friendly or carbon friendly. This doesn’t mean that we have to stop more traditional practices, but we can approach them in a much more eco-friendly way. There are ways that we can lessen our environmental footprint substantially with the choices we make when we die.

The choices we make leave a lasting impact on the planet and the people we love, even when we are gone.

Natural Burial

A significant way we can do this is by choosing to have a natural burial. Cremation has become a very popular choice in our society for several reasons. However, the simple fact is there is no such thing as a ‘green cremation’. This is because it releases carbon from our bodies and the fossil fuels it uses into the atmosphere. Natural burial, on the other hand, locks the carbon in our bodies back into the earth. It also provides a sustainable option for our future generations.

In the past, it has been suggested that cremation is a better alternative to burial. This was because of the effect traditional burial has on the land. We understand this when we see the impact cemeteries have on the space they use. There is a loss of land and habitats for headstones. While practices like embalming release harmful chemicals into the ground.

Natural burial does not have the same impact as a traditional burial. It is an eco-friendly and carbon-friendly choice that supports our ecosystems. It allows our bodies to go back to the earth naturally with biodegradable materials that help our native habitats to thrive.

As Barry Commoner (a leading ecologist) said, “the proper use of science is not to conquer nature, but to live in it.

We know from experience that our natural burial grounds are a beloved part of our countryside. We use them for other purposes like grazing and haymaking. This allows them to be sustainable with no loss of land. They are places full of wildflowers that help our honey bees and pollinators to thrive. These can then help to produce food and pollinate our plants. They are also a wonderful way we can protect our native habitats and support green projects. Nature is a wonderful scientist, it knows the best way to return our bodies to the earth.

However, we understand natural burial is not the choice for everyone. If you have your heart set on cremation or traditional burial there are still ways you make a difference…

The coffin you choose

One way you can make a difference is by using an eco-friendly coffin sourced from local, sustainable materials. These help to reduce carbon and decrease air pollution. Using an eco-friendly coffin may also help to lower fuel consumption during cremation. Natural coffins do not release the same toxins as MDF and Chipboard coffins which are not environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, a large percentage of coffins used in the UK are still MDF or chipboard, but they don’t have to be. There are many wonderful and affordable ‘green coffins’ suitable for cremation and burial. This includes willow grown in the UK, reclaimed wood, cardboard and even wool coffins. These can help to provide a much gentler setting at a funeral too.

Carbon friendly funeral flowers

Another way we can support the climate change crisis is by using locally grown flowers rather than imported flowers. Imported flowers have a higher carbon footprint in comparison to those that are grown locally. You may also wish to consider other ideas for a fitting funeral tribute.

Leaving a lighter footprint.

Another aspect to consider is if you want to have a memorial or headstone and the environmental impact of your memorial. These carry their own carbon footprint which we can take into consideration, including the cost of importing granite overseas. We are finding that people often choose to have a natural burial with us because they don’t want a headstone. Instead, they prefer to have a simple, natural memorial that they can visit as and when they wish. For many not having to worry about tending to a grave or bringing cut flowers means it’s a much more relaxed setting. You can still bring a posy of flowers picked from the garden or a local flower grower, but you don’t have to. There is no expectation, you can take a moment to truly remember and visit the person you love with a more eco-friendly approach.

Can we offset our choices?

Finally, you may wish to consider planting trees to offset your carbon footprint. Offsetting our carbon footprint is not an immediate solution. Younger saplings absorb much less co2 than an established tree. To put this into context figures state that cremation releases approximately 400 kgs of carbon into the atmosphere. One grown hardwood tree absorbs up to 48 pounds (21kg) of carbon a year. You would need to consider planting quite a few trees to offset a cremation carbon footprint.

Until we find a way to stop the release of carbon as part of the cremation process, cremation will contribute to the climate change crisis and it would be a while before planting trees for a cremation or burial made a significant impact. However, it is a way we can make a positive difference. In the long run, it may also help to restore deforestation, one of the big topics at cop26.

Making a difference

If we all made a conscious decision to choose carbon and eco-friendly funeral choices we would make a difference. It may be one of the above or ideally all the above. What changes would you be willing to make to ensure that we leave behind a healthy world for our future generations? Because when we are gone, they are the ones that have to live with our decisions.

“For the world has changed, and we must change with it”. — Barack Obama

Find out more

If you want to find out more about natural burial and carbon-friendly funeral practices give us a call.