What is a green funeral?


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Find out how nature-lovers are planning eco-friendly funerals, including green burial and eco coffins.

Green funerals, also known as eco-friendly funerals, are funerals that try to have as little negative impact on the environment as possible. These eco-conscious final farewells usually include green burial.

More people are thinking about the environmental impact of funerals. With traditional burial plots in increasingly short supply in urban areas, and the significant carbon footprint of cremation, many people are turning to greener ways to be laid to rest.

What is green burial?

Green burial, also known as natural burial, is a way of burying someone in the most environmentally friendly way. Apart from thinking about the impact on Mother Nature, some people prefer the idea of being buried in a more natural way, as part of the circle of life.

Green burial uses non-toxic and biodegradable coffins to minimise the impact of the burial on the natural landscape. Biodegradable options such as cardboard coffins or wicker caskets can easily disintegrate and return to the soil.

Embalming is not allowed for green burial. Embalming someone who has died involves using chemicals to preserve their appearance. As these chemicals may affect the earth around the burial plot, embalming is usually prohibited at green burial sites.

What are eco-friendly coffins?

Choosing an eco-coffin is an important way to make your funeral more environmentally friendly.

There’s been a steady increase in demand for eco-friendly coffins, meaning that there’s plenty of choice whether you want a cardboard coffin, wicker casket or biodegradable shroud. Different natural burial sites will have different restrictions on the type of coffin you can choose, so remember to check the regulations first.

You may also want to consider where the coffin is imported from. Those from distant countries will have a higher carbon footprint than locally sourced and made coffins.

Choosing a natural burial site

There are over 100 natural burial sites in the UK, and that number is growing every year due to increasing demand.

When choosing a natural burial site for yourself or a loved one, there are several things to bear in mind:

  • Is it a truly green burial site? Some woodland burial sites allow embalming and traditional coffins, although they are still situated in a scenic natural landscape. These cemeteries are less eco-friendly than strictly green burial sites, where only biodegradable, non-toxic caskets are permitted.
  • Are you allowed to have a headstone or memorial? Some natural burial sites want the landscape to look as natural as possible, meaning no gravestones of any kind. Although some offer a map to the location of the burial site, your loved ones may not be able to visit your grave as such. Consider if this is the right choice for you.
  • Do you have a preference for your coffin? Some green burial sites are strict about the types of coffin they allow. The rules vary from site to site, so make sure you research your options before committing to buy a burial plot or an eco-coffin.

Green fields at the Hamdown Woodland Burial Ground

Hamdown Woodland Burial Ground, photo by Bob Ford, via Geograph.

Other ways to keep it green

Apart from natural burial and eco-friendly coffins, there are other ways to make your funeral as green as possible.

If you’re passionate about reducing your carbon footprint, some funeral directors now offer electric or hybrid hearses, so that your last journey is as eco-friendly as your burial. There are even examples of tandem bicycle hearses.

You could also have a vegetarian or vegan wake. With more people choosing not to eat meat on the grounds of environmental concerns, having veggie food and drink on offer at the funeral wake could be the perfect way to honour someone who loved animals and nature.

You can also fix the cost of funeral director fees for your green funeral with an Avalon funeral plan. Compare our range of funeral plans online.


About the author

With a Masters from the University of Bristol, Jessica Hanson has worked in the funeral sector for several years, following the latest industry trends and writing about end of life planning. Jessica has previously written as a blogger for the Huffington Post, covering topics such as death positivity, understanding grief and how funerals are changing. You can find Jessica on LinkedIn and Twitter.