Has your family been talking about ways to reduce the expense or environmental impact of a funeral in the event of death? Has somebody close to you included a request for an eco-friendly funeral as part of his or her final wishes or prepaid funeral plan? Maybe you want to plan a funeral that reflects the interests or values of the deceased.
There are a number of reasons to seek out an environmentally friendly funeral service, and cremation is the simplest way to achieve it. Cremation on its own doesn’t eliminate all the environmental concerns of a traditional funeral, but this quick guide will provide a few tips to help you make the process a little greener from start to finish.
Natural Alternatives to Embalming
Embalming is not always necessary for cremation, and it’s preferable to avoid it if you want the greenest service possible. Direct cremation is extremely environmentally friendly because the body undergoes cremation in its natural state, no harmful chemicals or preparations involved.
Look into natural preservation solutions (most funeral homes can give you information) if you want a traditional funeral and viewing. There are plenty of options out there to choose from, including ordinary refrigeration or non-toxic, non-formaldehyde embalming.
Of course, even if the body did undergo the standard embalming process, you are likely to find that cremation is greener than most lavish burial ceremonies even without any special precautions.
Use an Eco-Friendly Casket
Formal caskets used in traditional burials often have metal parts, synthetic fabrics, and other potentially hazardous materials that don’t work well for an eco-friendly cremation. Look for a natural casket instead. If your family opts for viewing, you can find plenty of green caskets with the same elegance and quality – look for caskets made of untreated sustainable materials, like bamboo or sea grass.
If you do not wish to arrange for viewing but still want something elegant and dignified for the cremation, look into a temporary faux casket. These are made from pressed wood or cardboard covered in fabric to look just like the real thing. The casket interior is often of similar quality and beauty as an ordinary casket.
Invest in a Biodegradable Urn
Most well stocked urn suppliers have a wide variety of biodegradable urns to fit a variety of needs. Green urns intended for burial will dissolve the ground after a couple of months and come in a cool assortment of materials: clay, paper, bamboo, etc.
Urns intended for water burials have different requirements. These need to dissolve within hours (unless you chose one suitable for permanent water placement, such as a concrete reef starter urn). You can find water urns made of clay, paper, carved salt, and sand.
If you want to keep the urn forever – either with ashes or without – avoid the biodegradable options and instead choose something of exceptional quality, something that will last in your household or columbarium niche for generations. Take some time to visit Stardust Memorials to see a wide variety of earth and water urns in addition to traditional permanent urns.
Respect the Scattering Site
Ash scattering ceremonies are a highly symbolic event popular with people who loved to travel, explore the wilderness, and it’s not unheard of to see a specific location requested for the funeral of a hiking enthusiast or ocean-lover.
The good news is that cremated remains are not harmful to the environment. The biggest danger is actually large groups of people filtering through a particularly sensitive ecosystem, and the litter or decorations left behind from ceremonies.
When it comes to public parks, monuments, and other populated areas, it’s polite to scatter in a designated area when there aren’t very many people around – any park coordinator should be able to give you information about the best times to show up for your privacy and convenience.
Famous lookout points often have the most trouble with overuse from ash scattering ceremonies. Stick to established walking trails when possible. High mountain peaks where plants already have trouble thriving are the most sensitive areas to consider. In general, though, there are very few areas truly prohibited to ash scattering.
Green cremations need not be complicated or expensive – there are an incredible number of options to consider. Planning an eco-friendly funeral is just a matter of knowing the right questions to ask.