With the impending climate crisis, we are all looking for ways to make more environmentally-sound choices, and this can extend into our end-of-life planning.
Previously, burial practices have had serious, long-term consequences on the earth - and only now are we considering these impacts in how we look at our end-of-life solutions. Never fear, there is a way to be mindful of the environment and still give a meaningful service to your loved ones.
While it is not well-known or entirely accepted yet, a more eco-friendly end-of-life arrangement can be achieved by choosing to cremate rather than bury. Here’s how to make the best decision possible for you or your loved ones, all while reducing your carbon footprint.
So, what does a “green” funeral encompass? While there are no codified set of rules, you can count on the following to be hallmarks of what an eco-friendly end-of-life looks like:
- No chemical embalming
- Avoiding ornate or gaudy headstones made of material that doesn’t breakdown
- No metal coffins, and choosing biodegradable materials such as cardboard, wood or even choosing a non-bleached, undyed, natural fibre shrouds to cover the deceased’s body.
- If you choose burial, graves would be shallow to help expedite decomposition
The actual process of cremation requires a large amount of intense heat. Traditionally, many older crematoriums use natural gas in their cremations, which ultimately lead to the release of greenhouse gases. As the world moves towards greener pastures, modern crematoriums are more aware of the impact of the gases they produce on the environment and have opted for other, more fuel-efficient methods.
This is good news, since land space is becoming less and less available. In response to that, direct cremations have become the go-to end-of-life option for those who are looking for flexibility and a greener option than burials.
If you’re opting for a direct cremation and would like to make sure that it is as green as possible, take time to ask your crematoriums about the greenhouse gases and emissions. You can also make sure to ask for greener options for remain receptacles, as biodegradable options are available to families.
Services like Eirene provide certainty and choice in your end-of-life arrangements and since we know that Canadians care about the environment, all our direct cremations come with eco-friendly options.
As the more widely discussed arrangement, burials have held long-ranging environmental implications. Consisting of placing foreign objects (such as a body or a casket) into the ground, burials often included embalming fluids and casket materials (such as finished lacquered wood, and metal from the rails) that are incredibly harmful to the earth. With time, these chemicals seep into the earth causing more widespread damage to the burial site or the surrounding area.
Further, there are other environmental costs to having a burial. Traditional burials in the United States are resource drains, that “use 30 million pounds of hardwood, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, 104,272 tons of steel, and 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete for coffins, caskets and burial vaults,“ according to the Berkeley Planning Journal.
For this method to be more eco-friendly, go with the recommendations from the Green Burial Council, which state that a “green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns.” To achieve this, talk to your funeral or burial provider to ensure that casket and you are purchasing for your loved one is biodegradable. You can even consider bypassing the embalming process altogether since it is not legally required.
Green Burial Sites
Having green options means those who have lived an eco-friendly life are given a chance to be eco-friendly after they pass on. Known as green cemeteries, these burial sites are subject to stringent conservational laws, and are often ecological preserves. Different from the well-manicured and heavily landscaped traditional burial sites that are popular across Canada, these green burial sites tend towards a more “wild” or “natural” aesthetic. There are also hybrid sites that bring together the green options with the more conventional.
Building “Green” into your Arrangements
The ever-growing popularity of green, or “natural” burials and end-of-life options is coming off the heels of a strong environmental push, but also in reaction to growing concerns for the long-term sustainability of conventional burial methods. To truly “go green” with your end-of-life arrangements, do the following:
- Make an environmentally conscious urn choice
- Avoid embalming fluids - it’s not a legal requirement in Canada
- Opt for no vaults or expensive casing for burials and coffins made from sustainably sourced wood
- Consider the use of biodegradable containers to allow the body to naturally decompose with no repercussions to the earth.
- Ask for an 'in lieu of flowers' option at your funeral
Going green doesn’t mean you lose out on giving the respect to your loved ones as you say goodbye, rather, you are able to provide them with a peace of mind that their passing has a larger, positive impact on the world.
Connect with us today to learn more about direct cremations and how we can help you go green.