Green funerals

Environmental awareness is at an all-time high. People are wanting to live a life with minimal impact on the environment which covers all aspects of life. One approach is to reduce your carbon footprint. This is the amount of carbon dioxide you generate during daily activities. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. As we produce more carbon dioxide, we increase its concentration in our atmosphere which eventually contributes to global warming.

Choosing to live a life with a small carbon footprint is how some want to be memorialised once death occurs - through a green funeral.


What are green funerals and why should you consider having one?

A green, also known as a natural funeral, is a funeral with the intention of leaving as small of a carbon footprint as possible. This means:

  • a reduction in the chemicals which are used in any part of the process
  • eco-friendly caskets or shrouds used for the burial
  • dressing the body in biodegradable clothing
  • no traditional maker or headstone at the gravesite

In addition, the grave is dug to only 3 feet, instead of the traditional 6 to avoid the use of heavy earthmoving equipment.

Choosing a green funeral cuts down carbon emissions that would normally be used during a traditional funeral. There is no embalming process which means that none of the chemicals are then soaked into the earth, poisoning the earth and water ways.

Green cemeteries are located in bushland or forests, so landscaping is not needed which again reduces the carbon footprint.

You should consider a green funeral if:

  • You are passionate about helping the environment and would like to leave the earth in the most eco-friendly way possible.
  • You would like to reduce costs when it comes to the burial. Due to the lack of embalming processes, traditional coffin materials and use of heavy equipment needed, a green funeral can be cheaper than a traditional one.
  • The thought of a final resting place being truly amongst nature feels right for you.


Who can have a green funeral?

Anyone can have a green funeral. If you are interested in a green funeral for yourself and have specific religious or cultural beliefs, it would be best to check with your family, community or religious leader to ensure that your wish to have a green funeral would be suitable to your faith.

If you are planning the funeral of a loved one, be sure to check any wills or testaments to see what kind of burial they have requested, before selecting a green funeral.


How much does a green funeral cost?

The average cost of a green burial in Australia can be more than a traditional cremation and less than a traditional or religious burial.

Usually, the cost of the funeral is the same, however as a there is not a need for a grave liner or burial vault, or a traditional marble headstone the cost can be reduced.


Green coffins and caskets

In order to have a green burial, an eco-friendly coffin or casket is required. They are made from recycled materials and break down at a much faster rate and are built in a way that is safe for the environment.

Eco-friendly coffins or caskets can be made of materials that include:

  • Cardboard
  • Bamboo
  • Wicker
  • Raw teak
  • Cotton, linen or wool
  • Rattan
  • Seagrass


Green headstones and natural grave markers

Depending on the regulations of the green cemetery, burial sites may have either a natural grave marker or none at all.

For cemeteries that allow grave markers, the use of natural formed elements is used to keep the land and environment as close to its natural state as possible. This means the grave markers will be made of naturally occurring stones/rocks, trees, flowers or bushes are some typical items used as markers.

For those cemeteries that don’t allow headstones at all, the ground will be carefully mapped out, sometimes with the use of satellites, so that friends and family are still able to find and visit their loved ones.


Additional considerations

To ensure either you or your loved one have the greenest funeral possible, consider the following:

  • Instead of flowers, ask friends and family to donate to an environmental charity of your choice
  • Use recycled paper for orders of service
  • Opt for a shroud instead of a coffin

As with all funerals, funeral planning is an emotional and very personal task. If you decide that a green funeral is right for you, make sure your family knows about your decision and wishes.

If you are currently preplanning a funeral please contact your funeral director to discuss your options.

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