Green funerals are alive and kicking – and they’re making a serious mark in the funeral industry.
The innovation promises to help consumers avoid expensive caskets, rid the world of toxic aldehydes used in embalming and make a big difference to the environment.
Bob Newbould of Kingston Funerals began selling a range of green options 18 months ago because he saw the waste in burning and burying.
“Why chop down an oak tree to burn it when it is only on show for an hour or two? It just doesn’t make sense,” Mr Newbould told The New Daily.
“We are motivated by challenge and not afraid of doing things that swim against the tide. It can be frustrating, but also satisfying.”
His almost three-decade-old Victorian funeral company now offers linen or silk shrouds and coffins made from cardboard (with cornstarch handles), recycled natural pine or woven wicker cane. These sustainable options make up 10 per cent of his business.
In Australia, cemeteries don’t have much space for burials, so seven-in-10 people end up cremated. And it creates a big carbon footprint. That’s one reason why the funeral trade is beginning to offer natural burial options. You can make sure your final departure is carbon neutral and eco-friendly.
A new wave of funeral directors want to make future burial grounds more living than dead. For example, Green Endings funerals in Western Australia offer to reduce carbon emissions and reduce “environmental degradation of land, air and waterways”.
Victoria has only a handful of natural burial ground options, in Healesville and Lilydale for example. In these places, the body can be buried with a GPS marker so that families know exactly how to find their loved one. Trees and shrubs or wildflowers are planted on the surface. The burial ground becomes a revegetation project and also a beautiful place to visit.
Greencare director Paul Custance, a business parter of Mr Newbould, supplies sustainable burial products to funeral directors all around the country. He discusses environmentally friendly burials with a range of funeral services, but doesn’t always find enthusiasm.
“The funeral business is very conservative, there are not many who are into change,” Mr Custance told The New Daily.
Sustainable burials have a surprising side effect: they’ll help leave more of your savings in the land of the living.
“Funerals don’t need to cost the earth. Most of the expense in a funeral is related to personnel, but the products on offer in a green funeral are significantly cheaper,” Mr Custance said.
This might explain why some in the trade are wary of a green revolution. A linen shroud costs $2000 and an oak casket can be $10,000. This kind of alternative doesn’t always seem a good suggestion in the board room. But consumer perceptions are changing.
“Funerals are a really important service to communities, but the service needs to match what the people want,” Mr Custance said.
“Greencare is the first company in Australia to offer different options for an environmentally sensitive funeral. We now have 50 stockists on board nationally giving choice to consumers.”
Not everyone will want a green funeral. There will always be cultural preferences and personal circumstances to consider. For some families a tombstone is important. There are so many ways to mourn a loved one. In some Islander burials a shroud is woven from palm leaves that the whole family contributes to. Making it becomes part of the grieving process.
Thanks to Mr Custance and Mr Newbould’s persistence, a new vision is on offer in the Australian funeral landscape. We all give ourselves back to the earth eventually. Now you can choose to make this offering in a non-toxic and sustainable way, ensuring your legacy as a source of new life.