Having green, environmentally friendly funerals may sound strange to some, but to others, this new idea is just what they’ve been looking for. After all, the passing of a loved one is a deeply spiritual occruence and why shouldn’t the corresponding processions and rituals be carried out in an environmentally conscious way that would sit well with Mother Nature?
Planning a funeral is one of the most stressful things we will ever do, however knowing that you can be helping the environment, and that the burial is much more natural, can help alleviate some of that stress. For many people, this can make the task of planning their funeral an easier and more rewarding experience, as they know that their decision to have an environmentally friendly funeral will help the planet, in part contributing to a positive legacy that their loved one can now leave behind.
1. Help Friends and Family
When someone you love passes away, it can be absolutely devastating and when you visit them in a regular cemetery, it can feel impersonal and unnatural. However, one of the best benefits of environmentally friendly funerals, is that your loved one will be laid to rest in a beautifully natural setting, surrounded by trees and plants. So when you visit their grave, you can feel much closer to them and much closer to nature, a feeling that helps many families come to terms with the death of their loved one. When making arrangements for your own funeral, knowing that people can visit you in a beautiful and tranquil location, in harmony with nature, can lighten the load of constant worry that comes with making this end of life arrangement.
2. Less chemicals
When people are buried the traditional way, they are embalmed before they are buried. The fluid used in embalming is made of ethanol, water, and 5-30% formaldehyde, which is a suspected carcinogen. After the burial, as the body decomposes, these chemicals leak out into the surrounding areas, and in the US, over 827,000 gallons of embalming fluid are used each year. However, with environmentally friendly funerals, bodies are buried naturally, with no chemicals to delay decomposition, making them a much more natural alternative that’s healthier for the environment.
The cemetery itself is often a barren area of land with minimal trees and plants. However, with environmentally friendly funerals, the aim is to also protect the land. Only small and locally soured stones are used as headstones and everything is done so there is no impact to the surrounding area. Knowing that in your passing, you are protecting the environment and helping to make the world a better place for your decedents can be a wonderful feeling.
4. No Air Pollution
Many people choose to be cremated rather than buried, often because it is cheaper. However, while it may be cheaper, and while people may think it’s environmentally friendly, it’s certainly not green. In fact, this process releases many toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, as well as burning fossil fuels that release around 10.5 million kilograms of carbon dioxide into the air each year.
In addition to carbon dioxide, cremations also release:
- Hydrogen chloride
- Carbon monoxide
The benefit of having a eco-friendly green funeral is that none of these chemicals are released, so there is no detrimental impact to the surrounding areas.
It’s not just the embalming process that can damage the environment. The coffins themselves can also become an issue as they can be made from materials that are expensive and can take decades to decompose. Each year in the US, over 30 million board feet of tropical, rare, or expensive hardwood is used to make coffins, plus they are often decorated with what adds up to almost 3000 tons of copper and brass. The idea behind a environmentally friendly funeral, is that nothing that isn’t completely biodegradable can be used. Instead, methods that date back thousands of years are used, such as wrapping the person in a shroud of natural material or placing them in a coffin made of cardboard, paper or bamboo.
The joy of environmentally friendly funerals is knowing that you’ve made your mark in life in the hearts of your friends and family and not on the earth; a comforting thought during the stressful time of planning your end of life arrangements.
Updated: June 20, 2013