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Is Green the New Black? Eco-Friendly Funerals On the Rise

by | May 20, 2016 | Funeral Profession

A tree-lined lane

Green funerals or eco-friendly alternatives are being increasingly talked about. So what is this new movement?

Not Technically New

It’s important to understand the trend isn’t really “new.” In some ways, green funerals are a return to an earlier time.

“Green” burials would be just another burial back in the 1800s. Most funerals took place in the deceased’s home. The coffin would be a simple pine box. It would all be unrecognizable from a modern funeral. Our idea of a modern funeral evolved as a coping mechanism for grieving the death of a loved one.

So What’s Considered “Green?”

At its core, a green funeral simply means there is no embalming involved and the body is buried in a biodegradable manner.

There are two main reasons people have started thinking about a green funeral. The earth-friendly mindset is one. They see a green burial as not only less harmful to the environment, but also as an opportunity to return back to nature.

The second reason is that, as the recession has lowered savings and life insurance options, people are looking for ways that won’t cause a financial impact on their loved ones. While the costs of an eco-friendly funeral vary, they tend to stay lower than the average $7,000 funeral.

Different Ways of Going Green

It turns out there is more than one way to go green:

  • Mushrooms — These aren’t the kind of mushrooms you’d find on a pizza. The natural death process was developed by a research fellow at MIT. The concept is to place a body in a suit lined with mushroom spores. The spores will then grow into fungi that break down the organic materials in the body.
  • Pine Boxes and Natural Burials — This is what we were talking about earlier. It’s the use of a simple pine coffin that breaks down with the body, returning both to the earth.
  • Trees — The idea behind this is to turn cemeteries into forests. It uses a biodegradable urn that contains ashes of the deceased. The urn, which also contains tree seeds, is then placed into the ground where it will grow into a tree.
  • Bio-cremation — Rather than burning the remains, this process uses an alkaline solution. The body is placed in the solution and then a combination of heat and pressure is applied. The result is a biodegradable solution and bone fragments. It’s considered green compared to regular cremation because it doesn’t require as much energy. It’s more expensive than a regular cremation, though.
  • Burial Reefs — Swimming with the fishes takes on a whole new meaning. This new idea involves an artificial reef ball made up of the deceased’s ashes. It’s meant to mimic the natural reefs found in the ocean and create living coral reef systems.

How Will This Movement Affect Me?

It probably won’t. For now.

According to an article in Reuters, there are only about 30 green cemeteries in the United States. As for bio-cremation, it is only legal in 8 states. Money also can still be an issue. While some options remain cheaper than traditional funerals, things like a memorial reef can cost up to $7,000.

It doesn’t mean it’s not a growing movement. Interest is on the rise. The same Reuters article mentioned that in 2008, the number of people who were interested in an eco-friendly burial went up from 21% to 43%.

Funeral homes have started to take note, too. The Boston Globe reported that in 2006, only one funeral home was certified as environmentally-friendly. Now, in 2016, there are more than 300. While it may not seem like much, it’s something to consider as more families seek out new ways to celebrate the life of a loved one.

What are your thoughts on the green trend? Have you heard any interest from families? Let us know in the comments below.


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