The Scottish public are more aware of environmental issues now, than ever before. All around us we see more and more effort being made to recycle, re-use and in general do less damage to the environment. From the way we dispose of our litter to general energy saving.
Funerals and funeral directors are no different.
For most people the first thing that usually springs to mind when thinking of a ‘green funeral’ is woodland burial using a wicker coffin. These steps certainly make a clear statement about the deceased’s lifestyle or wishes but far more can be done with the environment in mind.
As with all methods of reducing the carbon footprint, energy saving or recycling, small changes can make a big difference.
Use of funeral limousines instead of individual cars will involve less vehicles being used on the day as more people would fit into a limousine than a standard vehicle, therefore using less vehicles and lowering emissions. Taking things a step further, a bus could be used to further lower the number of cars. Keeping the venues local would also limit the distance travelled.
A lot of floral arrangements require the use of plastic, carefully choosing the types of arrangements could limit this.
Service sheets are very popular now, these could be printed on recycled paper.
The funeral home itself can take a multitude of steps to lessen the damage to the environment. Energy saving bulbs, properly recycling of litter/rubbish, sensible and careful use of heating and water.
When asked about a ‘green funeral’, funeral directors are often asked which is better for the environment, burial or cremation. There is no simple answer to this as both have a negative effect on the environment and result in a significant carbon footprint.
Cremation accounts for 70% of funerals in the UK. Due to its increased popularity the legislation surrounding cremation has changed significantly over the years, resulting in better filtering systems to reduce emissions. Cremation is now kinder to the environment than ever before. However, the cremation process itself is still fuelled by natural gas.
At first glance burial may be considered better for the environment, however burial by its very nature takes up ground which can seldom be used again for any other purpose. Also, during the decomposition process methane gas is produced, which is in fact 11 times more harmful than gasses which are emitted during cremation.
Although other disposal methods are being researched, there is no alternative currently available today in the UK.