Climate change is everywhere in the news these days. Headlines express the urgency of the need to curb emissions and create sustainable solutions. The future of our planet is a major concern for the majority of Americans (not to mention the global population), a concern that grows bigger with each new generation. While people are making changes to their lifestyles in order to reduce their carbon footprint, there are also steps you can take to make even more of an impact after you’ve died.
Green funerals are what humans around the world have practiced for millennia, and still are by many cultures. Eco-friendly funerals are becoming increasingly popular again in the United States. Also known as green or natural burials, they aim to minimize negative environmental effects and create a more sustainable way of laying a loved one to rest. At every step of the funeral and memorialization process are ways to limit environmental impact and create a greener goodbye. A family can choose all or some of these alternative options.
Final disposition, or the way in which a body is finally handled, is the main way many people choose to have a greener funeral. Final disposition can be burial, cremation, the above-ground interment of a body in a mausoleum, or in some states, ‘water burial’ or alkaline hydrolysis. To make final disposition more eco-friendly, many people choose burial rather than cremation. The process of cremating a body requires the use of fossil fuels, and produces carbon emissions into the air. The scattering of ashes, however, have no significant impact on the environment in non-fragile ecosystems.
Burials can be made ‘greener’ in various ways. This can include choosing not to be embalmed or requesting formaldehyde-free, biodegradable embalming fluids. Refrigeration or dry ice can often be used to help preserve a body prior to final disposition as well. What a person is buried in also factors into environmental impact.
Caskets made completely of natural materials, such as wood without metal adornments, or wicker, are popular choices for green burials, as they are biodegradable. Some families choose to forego a casket completely, preferring instead to wrap their loved one in a dye-free cotton or linen shroud and laid directly in the earth. This can be comforting for some knowing they are returning directly to the earth.
The location of where your remains are finally placed can further minimize a person’s environmental impact. Many states have green cemeteries, or cemeteries that don’t require a concrete lining or metal vault in each grave. There are also hybrid cemeteries, which provide both traditional gravesites and an area designated for green burials. Conservation burials take the fees paid and use the money in efforts that protect, restore and manage natural land.
If you choose cremation, you can choose to have your ashes scattered or planted with a tree in your honor. Other ecologically friendly options include biodegradable urns that can be buried in a grave, scattering over a body of water, or having your remains kept in an above ground niche or columbarium.
Death and taxes are certain. But the funeral you want isn’t. That is, unless you plan your funeral in advance. If you want an entirely green funeral when you die, or would like to incorporate more sustainable elements into your final disposition or memorial service, preplanning your arrangements yourself is the surest way to guarantee that your wishes will be carried out. Whether you want to plan out every single detail, or just want to make sure you’re buried in a biodegradable container for example, getting your wishes documented and paying for those service in advance will ensure the green service you want will be an impact you make on the planet after you’re gone.
A preplanned green funeral comes with many other benefits, as well. While you’re helping protect the environment, you’re also helping protect your family when the time comes. Planning the details of your services ahead of time means they won’t have to think about it, a monumental gift when grieving their loss. It also takes the financial burden off their shoulders, while simultaneously protecting them from inflated prices in the future.
Preplanning a green funeral is easier than you might think. The staff at French Funerals & Cremations is always available to answer any questions you may have, and we provide helpful online resources. If you’d like to meet with a funeral director to walk you through your options, just give us a call and we’ll schedule an appointment at one of our locations in Albuquerque that’s nearest you.
If you’re ready to preplan now, you can get started online.