The topic of “going green” comes up frequently in my family. My sister is a dedicated environmentalist who is trying to save the oceans, my mom wants to save the trees and my dad just wants to save on his electric bill. I grew up understanding the importance of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” and I try to practice it as often as I can. I have reusable grocery bags, I make sure to turn off all the lights when I leave a room and when I first learned about eco-friendly funerals, I made sure to pass the information along to my family.
At every step of the funeral planning process, there are ways that funeral professionals can help families incorporate eco-friendly practices. From disposition to services, here are seven ways that funeral providers can take steps to help save the planet.
While it’s not the most environmentally friendly method for disposition, cremation does have several eco-benefits. Families who choose cremation often forgo traditional caskets, which saves on resources like wood, metal and concrete – as well as the energy used to produce them. Cremation often takes up less space in a cemetery or none at all if the urn is kept at home or the ashes are spread on private property.
2. Alkaline Hydrolysis
This cremation alternative breaks down remains using chemicals instead of a crematory. This process reduces the gas emissions created by cremation, making it more environmentally friendly than its counterpart. Unfortunately, alkaline hydrolysis machines are exceptionally expensive, and the practice is not yet legal in many states.
3. Biodegradable Urns
Several casket and urn companies have developed biodegradable urns that disintegrate a short time after being buried. These items often come pre-filled with seeds that will grow into flowers, trees or other plants. A loved one’s remains then help the plant grow and become part of the root system.
4. Artificial Reefs
For a loved one that enjoys the ocean, funeral professionals can suggest turning their remains into an artificial reef. These reefs not only help restore the destruction of natural coral reefs due to pollution, climate change and coastal development, but they also provide homes for local sea life.
5. “In Lieu of Flowers”
Cut flowers are often associated with high levels of carbon emissions. To reduce your carbon footprint, funeral professionals could suggest that families ask for something “in lieu of flowers.” Common ideas could be a donation to a charitable cause that was important to the deceased.
6. Recycled Paper
Many funeral services feature paper materials like guest books and programs. Families could do their part in saving the trees by utilizing recycled paper wherever possible or opting for alternatives like a digital guestbook.
7. Vegetarian or Vegan Receptions
Meat production has a huge impact on the environment. Adjusting post-funeral or visitation receptions to be vegetarian or vegan will also help families reduce their carbon footprint while offering choices for attendees with dietary restrictions.
It’s important for families to make their intentions for a “green” or eco-friendly funeral known to others. That’s why prearranging can help reduce the burden on families and make sure their wishes will be met at the end of life. Let us know in the comments if your funeral home offers any environmentally friendly funeral options.