A guide to green funerals

For years, the ‘traditional’ funeral has involved a coffin, flowers, a cemetery and a wake or memorial service. However, this may be changing.

Society as a whole is becoming more aware of our environmental footprint. We’re looking for more sustainable products and solutions to use day-to-day, and now that even extends to reducing the footprint of our deaths.

What are green funerals?

A green funeral, also known as a green burial or natural burial, aims to have as minimal an impact on the environment as possible. Ways to reduce the impact include burying at a green burial site, using an environmentally conscious coffin or casket, having no headstone and choosing not to use any chemical preservatives or disinfectants.

Why the rise in green funerals?

People are becoming a lot more environmentally conscious, and the need to protect the environment for future generations is an increasing concern.

In a blog published on Palliative Care Australia, it was noted that within the next 200 years there will be so many cemeteries and headstones that there may be very little land left for our future children to enjoy. For many, the idea of leaving the world with as minimal environmental impact as possible is appealing.

When it comes to the environmental impact, the carbon footprint is reduced by 30kg of carbon dioxide per burial just by having a green funeral. That’s the equivalent to leaving a television on for more than seven days.

And the desire for a green funeral is a global phenomenon. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association , just over 50% of respondents would be interested in exploring “green” funeral options. Over in the UK, fifteen years ago there was only one green burial site, now there are more than 270. Before the commercialisation of the funeral industry, what’s now known as a green burial was the most common way to bury the deceased.

And if you’re budget conscious, another consideration is that a green funeral may be cheaper. While funeral insurance can be taken out to cover the cost of your desired farewell, the potential to have a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly burial process is appealing to many.