How Green is a Green Funeral?

Since the Coronavirus pandemic engulfed life as we know it, the news has been dominated by questions, theories, and speculation about how this virus could be a sign that nature is trying to teach us a lesson, even suggestions that nature is punishing us for abusing the environment we live in.

Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across continents, wildlife is returning to habitats that had previously been deserted, rivers are clearer, all adding to the continued stories of plastic pollution, upcycling, re-cycling and funerals. Yes, funerals.

Among all of this eco news, a worldwide trend towards social conscience in the funeral planning sector is emerging. According to a global study*, there is a shift in the way that people are now thinking about their end of life plans, and even the legacy they want to leave to the next generation.

green funeral optionsThe study showed that over half (51.6%) of respondents would be interested in exploring ‘green’ funeral options because of potential environmental and cost-saving benefits.

But what is a green funeral?

Options for natural and biodegradable coffins made of sustainable materials including wood, willow and wool, or themed coffins, painted coffins or personalised coffins, are becoming more widespread, but in reality, an eco-coffin is only a small part of making a funeral environmentally friendly or green.

It is now possible to arrange such a funeral in the UK and take comfort in the knowledge that every aspect has been carefully considered to minimise a funeral’s impact on the environment. Choosing a green funeral makes a positive statement of intent to help preserve the world in which we live.

With a growing choice of green funeral plans now available, there are a number of factors to consider, and it will all depend on how green you really want to go. Making one green decision will make a difference but for some, it’s all or nothing.

It is possible for the entire carbon footprint of a funeral service to be offset by tree planting in conservation areas or by donating funds to preserve endangered rainforests around the world. Additionally, there are companies that will even contribute to environmental or educational funds that combat climate change for the benefit of future generations

You can consider all factors from the cremation or burial right down to using paper straws at the wake. Some people choose to source the flower and catering companies locally and will even go as far as to look at the ethical credentials of each of these businesses and some will ask for charitable donations rather than flowers. On the day, arrangements can be made for guests to share lifts to reduce emissions and careful plans are often put in place so that there is minimal use of cars on the day.

Green funerals have traditionally been burial-only, due to the carbon emissions associated with cremation and it is assumed that that a burial is better for the environment than a cremation. This is correct if you are choosing a woodland or natural burial ground, of which there are a growing number now in the UK, but  a standard burial in a typical cemetery can be just as harmful to the environment due to the materials used to make the coffin and even the headstone.

However, if you do choose a cremation, there are options available which offset those emissions, such as being cremated in an eco-coffin with ashes interred in a cemetery or woodland burial ground in a biodegradable urn.

Choosing a green funeralPeople who care about the environment are now able to make their own end of life choices in line with their personal ethics but choosing the right plan can be confusing. Planning ahead will maximise the opportunity to ensure that your funeral is just as you want it. If you want to go green or make sure that your funeral is going some way to helping the environment, then make sure you have the following in place:

  • Use a reputable funeral planning company whose plan covers 100% of the costs listed in your chosen arrangement. In this way, there will be no additional costs at the time of the funeral unless you opt for third party services such as musicians or medical expenses.
  • Look at the payment options. These plans can usually be paid in one go or in instalments spread between one to five years or longer.
  • Ensure you select a product from a company registered by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) as this is the best way to protect your money and your funeral wishes. These companies have already volunteered to undergo significant amounts of independent scrutiny into their financial and operational activities.
  • Don’t be afraid to investigate the background and pedigree of the company you are potentially intending on purchasing from and look carefully at their green/environmental offerings, the charities they support and their environmental practice.

It’s your planet and it’s your funeral – make it what you want and not what grieving relatives think you wanted; they may be too distraught to make the right choices to reflect your legacy for the environment you cared about.

Barry Floyd, Managing Director of Golden Leaves

Golden Leaves Funeral Plans is the first and only UK-wide provider to introduce ‘green’ plans to the market. They are one of the UK’s leading Funeral Planning Providers and the first independent funeral planning company to have achieved BSI ISO 9001 for Business Excellence.Making a funeral green

*Reference Source – The survey was undertaken by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) which is the world’s leading and largest funeral service association, serving more than 20,000 individual members  and 49 countries around the world.


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