A funeral is someone's last moments on this earth, so wouldn't it be great if they helped nature, rather than hinder them? A casket in the ground doesn't do much to further this cause, which is why green funerals are gaining popularity as an eco-friendly way to enter the afterlife. Not sure what exactly constitutes a green funeral? Read on.
Cremations over Traditional Burials
For many, being stuck 6 feet underground doesn't benefit mother nature quickly enough. This is one of the reasons why cremations are becoming more popular. In 2014, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) reported 46.7% of funerals were cremations, with an estimated 71% by 2030. In addition to being around $2000 cheaper on average, they also give you carbon-rich ashes. These can be used to plant a tree or otherwise help the environment. For green funerals specifically, the Green Burial Council found urn burials to be the most commonly offered service by specialized eco-friendly directors, with 81.3% offering the service, compared to 43% offering mausoleum options, for instance.
Countering The Impact of Funerals
While burials themselves don't have a carbon footprint, did you ever think about the casket? Wood is the material of choice, but estimates suggest this needed 30 million feet in hardwood boards. That's a large amount of deforestation and the alternative, metal, creates a demand for quarrying. This is where green funerals are having a positive change. Thanks to eco-friendly, recycled and biodegradable caskets, you don't have to use limited resources. In fact, the metal required for caskets in America has gone down from an estimated 104,272 tons to 64,500 tons of steel. That's a big difference and funerals themselves certainly haven't stopped, so the impact must be down to these better alternatives! As an added bonus, these green caskets are often much cheaper, too. As for cremations? The technology for burning is becoming more and more efficient, so if you ask your local funeral directors, you can often find a crematorium powered through the more eco-friendly methods.
Where Do Green Funerals Come From?
Many countries like to lay claim to green funerals, typically because the most simplistic methods have been used because of their efficiency. While religion has often played a role, burying people in the ground was often the easiest way to dispose of the dead before caskets were invented. However, the U.S itself has a particularly strong claim to green funerals, as it was the early pioneers who would simply bury the dead in with the wild grassland. Many directors continue this natural practice, or offer recycled or biodegradable caskets as alternatives. According to some, these primal plots are helping to support the growth of rare, wild flowers – a true sign that green funerals have clear and obvious benefits for mother nature!
It's About Pooling Resources
One of the key tenements of a green funeral is the sharing and collecting of resources to get the task done, rather than creating a larger carbon footprint. There's no one single way to define a 'green funeral' but the NFDA suggests a number of factors, such as carpooling, using local flowers and services, organic food and even dressing the deceased in biodegradable clothing, all help define an eco-friendly event.
There Are Green Tombstone Alternatives
As mentioned earlier, stone is not a replenishing resource, so what are the alternatives to tombstones? According to the Green Burial Council, tombstones are the least popular option for green services, coming 6th in their 2015 survey. The most popular option is a memorial wall, followed by a bench, planting a tree and a wood or natural stone marker. As you can see, if you want to leave your mark, you don't need to carve out a chunk of irreplaceable marble to do it!
It's Helping Nature
Most traditional cemeteries are easy to find; they're the grim looking areas surrounded by walls and the odd tree, if you're lucky. Green specialists, however, often use the land to encourage nature and other outdoor pursuits. After all, they're already using the deceased to offer a helping hand! According to the Green Burial Council's 2015 survey, again, 75.9% are restoring their land to its natural potential, with watersheds, wildlife and natural plants. This in turn has lead many landowners to use their land for other activities, too, such as bird watching, hiking and picnics. Green funerals really do play their part to keep the circle of live moving.
As you can see, green funerals are far more different, and arguably more exciting, than your traditional alternative. Whether its helping nature, keeping a carbon footprint down or just being efficient, everyone can benefit.