Death is among the inevitable life processes for all human beings. As such, people across the world have developed different mechanisms of sending off their loved ones, relatives, friends, or family members. The majority have embraced traditional burial and cremation ceremonies as part of this practice. However, there is a rising concern among environmentalists concerning the effects of the traditional burials and cremation ceremonies on the environment.
Products used to prepare the body as well as the burial practices have devastating effects on the environment. Embalming, for instance, is a major source of groundwater pollution. Formaldehyde, which is the commonly used product to preserve the body, is highly poisonous, and it can be fatal if it is consumed by humans.
Perhaps if one considers the fact that over 50 million deaths occur in a year, imagine the impact of death on the environment if such harmful products continue being used during preservation or even burial.
Cremation also releases harmful gases to the environment like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and heavy metals among other particles.
As an alternative and commitment to protecting our planet earth, why can’t we make our burials eco-friendly by exploring green burial options? The burial options are endless, and it all depends on how far one is willing to go green upon death.
When considering a green funeral, however, one should make their intention clear to loved ones as they will be the ones to actualize burial wishes. Here is a list of 10 eco-friendly funeral ideas.
10 Eco-friendly Funeral Ideas For a Green Funeral
1. Natural Burials
Allowing the body to decompose naturally is the greenest option one can choose if you are looking to go green when you are dead. The idea of green burials is moderately gaining popularity with the Green Burial Council reporting that there are over approved eco-friendly burial providers in the U.S. today compared to a decade ago.
People are also more open to the idea of a natural burial based on the survey conducted by the International Cemetery reporting that most of those polled liked the idea.
Green burials do not use traditional coffins, vaults, or toxic chemicals. Instead, the bodies are wrapped in biodegradable shrouds or placed in pine coffins to allow the bodies to decompose naturally.
The bodies are also buried at just 3 feet to aid decomposing. People can also choose to be buried in environmentally-friendly burial grounds.
According to the Natural Death Centre, the use of biodegradable coffin reduces carbon emissions by 50 percent compared to the traditional burials. The eco-coffins industry is highly diverse.
There are many materials options people can choose from including hand-woven willow, bamboo, hyacinth, banana leaf, wicker, and cardboard.
People can also incorporate seagrass or other natural materials to add a decorative aspect or enhance the design. The woven caskets are particularly beautiful, and they feature sturdy handles ensuring easier and safe transportation.
3. Cardboard containers
If you still want to be buried in a traditional coffin, you should opt for more environmentally friendly options. Although there is usually the issue of giving the dead the best sendoff, you can do so without putting more harm to the environment. The high-end coffins are usually made of mahogany, which comes from the endangered rainforest.
The rain forest is a major player in the carbon dioxide cycle and felling a tree releases carbon dioxide to the environment. Instead of using mahogany, you should opt for coffins made from sustainable wood sources like waste wood. The use of cardboard containers, for example, can serve as an alternative to the traditional wooden coffins.
Cremation eliminates the need to cut down trees for caskets thereby addressing the environmental challenges that come with cutting down trees, especially the mahogany tree.
However, depending on the method of cremation, it may not be the most environmentally friendly option. Different crematoriums use different technologies to cremate bodies, but the use of wood as fuel is counterproductive.
Although wood is still being used in some places, most crematoriums are adopting cleaner ways to cremate bodies. When a body is burnt during the cremation process, it results in the release of toxins into the environment.
It can also lead to the release of more harmful chemicals like mercury if the body has toxins. Therefore, if your reason for cremation is to protect the environment, you must ensure that the institution tasked with cremating your body uses clean, environment-friendly methods.
Resomation is increasingly gaining popularity as an alternative to cremation. It is the use of alkaline hydrolysis instead of fire to break down the body chemically. The process makes the process of breaking down the body more environmentally clean by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 35 percent.
Its additional advantage is that it only uses one-third of the amount of energy used during cremation. The process produces DNA-free liquid and bone ash as the end products. Bone ash is given to loved ones in an urn while the liquid is released back to the water systems.
6. Use of biodegradable urns
Although cremation is not the greenest option, you can increase the benefits by using biodegradable urns. You can choose a wooden urn made from sustainable sources or a coconut shell.
Other options like the use of compacted peat and cellulose are also popular eco-friendly solutions. The use of the eco-friendly urns also allows individuals to customize their funeral as they come in many different shapes.
You can choose from small boxes to stylish designs such as circles, hearts, tubes, fish, shells, turtles, and envelope style. They can also be made of different materials that include hemp, gelatin, sand, recycled paper, recycled fabric, and cornstarch, among others.
The urns can come with seeds, plants, or flowers. Families can also choose to keep it in an urn or choose to spread it on private property.
7. Natural organic reduction
Although human bodies cannot be tossed into the backyard compost pile, they can be turned into compost material in a controlled environment within a period of one to twelve months.
The process is still in its early stages, but it is making progress with Washington being the latest state to allow licensed facilities to offer human composting services.
The process starts by frizzing the body, and then mixing it with warm air and other organic materials then periodically turned until it is reduced to a soil material in the form of powder.
Upon completion of the process, the soil materials can be used in planting or special tree, or just spreading it at certain locations in the garden to create memories or special locations.
8. Eternal reefs
Climate change and the continued rise in ocean temperatures are having a negative impact on coral reefs. Coral reefs around the world are dying at an alarming rate. Thankfully, you can use your remains to support the marine ecosystem and nourish coral and microorganisms for hundreds of years.
To support the marine ecosystem, you should ask your family to create an artificial reef with your cremated remains.
The remains are mixed with an environmentally safe cement mixture to create an artificial reef that is then placed in the ocean at your favorite location.
On most occasions, the creation of artificial reefs is allowed in places designated for recreational diving and fishing. The family can also customize the reef with written messages and handprints in the damp concrete. People can also include small personal mementos on the reef.
Shrouds are large pieces of fabric used to wrap bodies. They can be made of unbleached cotton fabric, linen, muslin, felted wool, hemp, or bamboo. They can also be plain or customized with colors and prints.
Shrouds can also feature slots or pockets for mementos. Shrouds can be purchased at green cemeteries and funeral homes.
They can also be bought online. If you are willing to do the work, you can also easily convert a king-sized cotton bed sheet into a simple shroud. However, if you are looking to use a shroud, you must remember that body changes that occur after death can cause fluids and liquids to leak or accumulate.
To address the challenge of fluids, you may consider using biodegradable absorbent disposable clothes, cotton fiber, or wood fiber. The shroud should also have a backing board to enable easy lifting and lowering of the body.
You can use a single plank of unpainted, unvarnished solid wood as the backing board. Nevertheless, most professionally made shrouds come with backing board or offers an option to purchase the backing board together with the shroud.
10. Green the funeral service
In addition to how your body is prepared for burial, you should also consider making your funeral service environmentally friendly. It is also a good opportunity for those not willing to go the extra mile like the use of shrouds to also take part in conserving the environment.
Some of the ideas that you can implement to make your burial service eco-friendly include the use of recycled paper for programs or hymn sheets, encourage mourners to use carpooling during the funeral, and source flowers from organic, local growers.
Furthermore, you can ensure that the food and refreshments are eco-friendly. You can also ask friends not to bring flowers but instead use other alternatives like donating to an eco-friendly charity.
Cremation and burial are the most common ways to dispose of the dead. However, irrespective of how these methods are deeply rooted in tradition, they are usually not environmentally friendly.
Death is a painful experience, but it can be comforting when your death helps lessen the negative environmental impacts. There are many ways you can make your burial green ranging from the use of eco-friendly casket to shrouds and urns as discussed in this article.