From car sharing to liquid cremations – how more people are choosing a ‘greener’ death

The Good Funeral Awards is run by the Association of Green Funeral Directors to promote eco-friendly funerals

It might not be something that’s really crossed your mind, but dying isn’t very eco friendly.

That is to say that the process of the funeral and burial can produce a lot of Co2. So if you’ve made a conscious effort in life to be more green, it makes sense that you’d make the effort in death too.

The AGFD Good Funeral Awards (think of them as like the Oscars of funerals) are helping people to make wiser choices when planning their funerals.

We spoke to the president of the AGFD, William Wainman, about the ways in which people are going green beyond the grave.

He said: “Believe it or not, car sharing at funerals has the biggest impact regarding reducing Co2 emissions at a funeral.

“Burial at a natural burial ground which does not need constant maintenance (lawn mowing and treatment produces Co2) is also a step in the green direction.

“Funeral directors are also moving over to electric vehicles now which we see as a positive step.”

William also explained the different ways of disposing of remains that are much better for the environment. These are:

Resomation – which is water cremation using alkaline hydrolysis that reduces the human remains to their bones, they are then pulverised to form the “ash” for disposal.

Cryomation – a fully automated process involves immersing a body in liquid nitrogen down to a temperature of -196 degrees at which point the water is removed and it becomes extremely brittle. This is cryolated into small particles allowing for the removal of any surgical implants and other foreign material.

Natural Burial – A natural burial attempts to return a body to the earth in as natural a way as possible. This involves a rejection of embalming processes, cremation and caskets or coffins made of chipboard or MDF which contain formaldehyde.

Coffins and caskets used for natural burial are generally made from woven natural materials such as bamboo or willow, or made of cardboard, and often takes place in green spaces, such as wildflower meadows, protected woodland and parkland.

There are many aspects to a traditional funeral that we don’t realise are bad for the environment, such as the petrol and diesel from the vehicles that drive family and friends to the funeral, and the plastic, metals and foam used in traditional floral tributes.

William also explains that the machinery used to dig graves in larger burial grounds are bad for the environment, as well as non eco-friendly embalming fluids.

Things are looking up for natural funerals though, with a huge increase in the number of natural burial grounds from just 2 in the entire UK in the late 1990’s to well over 250 today.