Traditional funerals are a sombre and dignified way to say goodbye to loved ones, but they can also be prohibitively expensive for the family. They are also less than friendly on the planet. Unfortunately, embalming practices, caskets, and other aspects of a traditional funeral can leave a negative environmental impact for generations to come.
After assessing the environmental (and financial) costs of traditional ceremonies, it’s no wonder that many people are opting for a green funeral. Whether you are planning your own wishes for after you pass on or arranging the proper farewell to a loved one, a green burial can be a loving alternative to more old-fashioned ceremonies.
Before planning a green burial, here are some common facts that you should know.
1. Green Funerals Incorporate Several Ways of Saving the Environment
A green burial does not just involve one change to the traditional funeral programme. Instead, it incorporates many different changes that lessen the overall carbon footprint of the event.
For example, a person who chooses a green burial may not get embalmed as embalming fluids contaminate the earth. The burial coffin or shroud is biodegradable and there is no cement liner or vault around the body. The goal of a green funeral is to minimise contamination as much as possible and allow the body to return to its natural state as soon as possible.
One of the most advantageous things about green burials is their flexibility. In your arrangements, you can choose to adapt one of the eco-friendly practices or choose the full slate of green burial options.
2. Green Burials Are Nothing New
Green funerals may seem as if they are a new-fangled trend among environmentally-minded hippies. However, in many ways, they are a reflection of traditional burial practices that encompass thousands of years and many different civilisations. From sky burials practiced in Tibet to simple wooden coffins used in pre-modern Europe, our ancestors found a way of saying goodbye to their dead that remained harmonious with nature.
The current customs of modern funerals are actually a more recent invention, but in a few decades have left quite a negative impact on the earth. Every year, thousands of tonnes of steel, copper, hardwood, and concrete as well as millions of gallons of formaldehyde get poured into the ground for funerals.
By choosing green funerals, current generations are returning to the simple grace of true traditional burials and aligning with their own values.
3. Green Burials Have Benefits Besides Saving the Environment
The environment is very important, but green burials can benefit your family as well as nature. Green funerals use less materials and require less rituals, so they can sometimes be more affordable than more traditional ceremonies. This gives your family more space to deal with grief instead of worrying about your finances.
Many families find green funerals to be more comforting than traditional ones. For example, you are able to say goodbye to your loved one in a natural environment, often one that the deceased loved. Green burials also allow you to see death as a natural extension of life, where everything is cyclical.
4. There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Green Burial
Opting for a green burial gives you and your family many options for saying farewell, often far more than you would have at a traditional ceremony. For many families, one of the most important choices is the casket as it is your loved one’s last resting place. Biodegradable caskets and shrouds are simple yet beautiful and many are decorated.
And with a green burial, you have a whole range of other options for interring the body. These include novel ideas like fungi-covered fabrics that aid in the decomposition of the body and detoxification of the soil around it – although solutions like these are not yet available in Australia. Simpler eco-friendly options include planting a tree at the site of burial on private land to act as a natural marker.
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5. You Can Be Buried in a Natural Cemetery
Australia has green or natural cemeteries where you can be buried following green funeral rites. Usually, a requirement for burial in these ceremonies is using a biodegradable coffin or shroud. Other aspects of the ceremony are up to you. Some cemeteries may require you to seek a religious exemption to use a shroud.
If you do not have a green cemetery near you, then you can inquire at your local cemetery for their practices. Some cemeteries may allow you to incorporate elements of a green burial into your ceremony. Others are hybrid ceremonies, where certain sections are designated for green burials.
To ensure that your ceremony goes smoothly, no matter where the funeral happens, you can work with a green funeral-friendly funeral director.
6. You Can Incorporate Elements of a Green Burial Into Any Ceremony
If for whatever reason a fully green burial is not possible for you or your family, that does not mean that you have to agree on a traditional ceremony. You can make choices to make the ceremony eco-friendlier, even if your only option for burial is a traditional ceremony. For example, ask guests to forego flowers and avoid printing out programmes with the aim of minimising waste.
There are also other options for interment that are not burials per se. You can look into non-traditional options like seedling urns to embrace the green philosophy while allowing loved ones to say goodbye.
Find Out More About Green Funerals
A green funeral is a way to say goodbye to your loved ones without harming the environment. More and more people are turning away from traditions that use tons of hardwood, concrete, and toxic embalming fluid in favour of biodegradable coffins and sustainable burial practices.
In Australia, you have the option of holding the ceremony in designated green cemeteries. If you do not have one near you, a funeral home company experienced in green burials can help you make necessary arrangements.