By Karen Laing, Funeral Director, Lady Anne Funerals
With the rise of the environmentally-conscious lifestyle, it’s no surprise that sustainable funerals emerge as a new frontier. Many consider green funerals as the way of the future, offering a uniquely natural way of saying goodbye to a loved one – while minimising the environmental impact.
As a mother, grandmother, sister, daughter and funeral director, I know how important it is to show our loved ones we care and celebrate them in life and in death. Here are some ideas for beautiful, natural funerals you might consider to pay tribute to your loved ones.
The new wave of beautiful green funerals
By far the most common type of eco-friendly burials however are natural burials and green cremations. With American research suggesting traditional funerals churn through quantities of casket wood equivalent to a staggering four million acres of forest, and over 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde per year, it’s easy to see why environmental impact is important to consider.
Green funerals, or natural burials, seek to bury the deceased with minimum environmental impact. This means that the body is placed in a biodegradable coffin, casket or simple shroud made of environmentally friendly materials (such as wicker or cardboard), instead of a traditional, furnished coffin, and laid to rest in a shallow grave.
Green funerals also leave out some of the usual preparations of the burial process such as embalming fluid and chemical preservatives, typically used to slow down the process of decomposition. Instead, the aim is to allow the body to return to the earth.
The bodies are then buried in green cemeteries without headstones or physical monuments in order to allow the land to either retain its natural state with minimal human modification, or to restore the local environment by promoting the growth of native trees and wildflowers. Instead, bodies are buried with their own GPS transmitting device so that the deceased’s families and loved ones can visit their loved ones. The result is often a beautiful, tranquil and above all natural burial ground and memorial.
Another eco-friendly burial option is the green cremation. Unlike traditional cremations, a green cremation uses water and potassium hydroxide rather than flames to cremate the body. The ashes are also stored in an urn made from natural products, in a process with certified carbon neutrality to offset any emissions.
Alternative Types of funerals
With recent technological advances, there are several types of green funerals you can hold – however not all of these are currently available in Australia:
- Aquamation – only available in some Australian states, aquamation involves placing the deceased’s remains in a chemical solution to speed up the process of decay using alkaline hydrolysis.
- Resomation – not currently an option in Australia, resomation is similar to aquamation but includes additional pressure through the use of heat and high temperatures.
- Promession – another option currently available in Australia, this involves freezing and crumbling the remains in liquid nitrogen, making them similar to cremated ashes which can then be scattered and memorialised.
- Eternal Reef burials – this innovative aquatic burial option involves mixing human remains following cremation with a heavy concrete orb to form artificial reef material. This is then placed in coral reef areas needing ecological restoration in order to help restore the habitat by attracting fish and other marine species. It’s currently only available in Florida.
- Organ and tissue donation – while technically not a burial option, organ and tissue donation is another alternative for those looking for a sustainable death, allowing the body to be used to help others live.
- Body donation – similarly, body donation helps give the gift of scientific knowledge to medical students and researchers.
Green burials and cremations alike present a unique way to memorialise those we have lost, and help make the world a better place – what better tribute for our loved ones?
About the author
Karen Laing is a funeral director from Sydney who’s passionate about helping people farewell their loved ones in uniquely memorable ways.