How can I make my funeral more eco-friendly?

english eco willow coffin


As a society, we’re becoming more aware of our environmental footprint and impact as we live our day-to-day lives. But is it possible to continue this awareness into your funeral? The good news is that yes, there are steps you can take, and it’s not just your funeral where you can make a difference. 

Choice of coffin/casket

Even though the wood used in more traditional coffins mainly comes from FSC certified sources – meaning the timber is harvested from managed and regulated forests – hardwoods typically do not reach harvestable maturity for decades. What’s more, if you choose to be cremated, then the burning of the coffin releases carbon that the tree has locked up in its lifetime. So even with the replacement of the tree, carbon neutrality is only achievable over a long timeframe.  

Whilst in the UK many still favour a traditionally shaped wooden coffin, alternatives such as woven coffins made from fast growing, sustainable materials like willow and bamboo are becoming increasingly popular.  

Aside from wood and other natural materials, there has also been a noticeable rise in the use of cardboard coffins and recycled options. Put aside concerns about cardboard that’s akin to your latest Amazon delivery, these cardboard coffins are structurally sound and of course have very good environmental credentials.  

If you want to move away from a coffin altogether, then a shroud might be a worthwhile consideration. Previously only really used for specific religious services, this option echoes the trend in eco-friendly products as it has such a low environmental impact.  

Direct cremations or natural burial

57 percent of funerals in 2021 were traditional cremations with an attended service, making it the most popular choice of funeral, but direct cremations have been gathering pace and are now, along with burials, the two other most popular options*. A direct cremation generally involves no period at the chapel of rest or family viewing, no service at the crematoria and effectively is an unattended process, conducted soon after the body is released to the undertaker.  

Direct cremations take place early in the morning or in between scheduled services. The unattended nature of a direct cremation reduces the impact caused through transportation and storage of your body and removes the need for people to travel to a service. It also makes use of ‘downtime’ at the crematoria when the building is operational but otherwise not used. Direct cremations shift the focus to memorials and a celebration of life, which many families prefer, and your Funeral Director can still support you with arranging this. When combined with the right choice of coffin or casket, this option can significantly reduce the overall impact of the funeral process. 

If you have concerns about cremation and are considering burial as a preferred option, then there are now more than two hundred natural burial sites across the UK. Natural burial is about minimising the impact on the environment and therefore sites do not permit embalming methods and require coffins and caskets to be made from natural materials. With natural burial, the focus shifts towards allowing the body to ‘return to the earth’ as naturally as possible, and burial grounds are normally set in areas of woodland, park land or wild meadows. As environmentally friendly funerals go, natural burial is becoming an important option for those looking for a more eco alternative.  

Whatever your preference our team is here to help and support you. We work closely with a network of funeral directors across the UK and are proud to help you make the right choices for your funeral.

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