When we lose a loved one, the last thing we want to think about is the burial and ceremony of life planning. Grieving makes it’s hard to focus on things like buying memorial cards, catering, flowers, etc. Planning feels time-consuming and draining, so we may decide on what is easiest to organize for the burial and service. Thinking about the toll our choices may have on the environment doesn't come easily, yet it is so important to do.
Why? According to forensic scientists, cremations and traditional caskets contribute to millions of tonnes of nonbiodegradable material waste and substantial greenhouse gas emissions each year.
As the world faces what many are calling an environmental crisis, there are several reasons to plan a green burial and eco-friendly life celebration. Here are 5 especially eye-opening reasons to take note of:
1) Cremation burning releases about as much fossil fuel as 2 tanks of gas from a car. Source: nationalgeographic.com
2) Over 4 million acres worth of trees, including trees from the rainforest, are cleared each year to produce caskets. Source: nationalpost.com
3) Green burials are easier to arrange today because of green burial organizations such as Green Burial Society of Canada, Passages International, Association of Natural Burial Grounds and Green Burial Council.)
4) Each year, embalming accounts for the waste of 827,060 gallons of formaldehyde, methanol, and benzene (a known carcinogen) which seep into nearby soil and groundwater over time. Source: greenburialcouncil.org
5) Traditional memorial services cost between $7,000 to $10,000 while eco-friendly memorial services cost about $3,500 to $5,000. Source: cbc.ca
To help you plan an eco-friendly burial & celebration of life, here are some solutions to some of the main environmental concerns:
Memorial Tributes, Programs, Cards, Hymn Pages
As easy as it may be to print on regular paper, this contributes to tree cutting and habitat loss. As well, paper with glossy finishes contains ingredients that are harmful to the environment. After the service, guests may lose or throw away the pages they no longer need.
- Choose recycled papers or biodegradable seed paper memorial cards.
- Put out a recycling or compost bin for guests to toss their papers out after the service.
- Downsize the number of materials ordered and packaged.
- When communicating with guests, use email or phone correspondence as much as possible.
- Choose biodegradable, waste-free hand-outs such as Wildflower Planting Kits or Forget-Me-Not Seed Packets. Not only do these items reduces waste, but growing wildflowers gives back to the environment and benefits pollinators.
Transportation, Memorial Services, and Cemeteries
Not all funeral homes and memorial services offer green burials. Long limos and hearses suck up a lot of natural gas. Guests driving in for the service also use up gas.
Solution: Work with green memorial services, burial parks and centers instead of traditional cemeteries. Or ask the local cemeteries if they offer a green burial option. Arrange rideshare for your guests to reduce carbon emissions.
Caskets and Urns
Traditional burials produce millions of tonnes of nonbiodegradable waste. Virgin wood, concrete, steel, copper and bronze from caskets are nonbiodegradable. Cremations burn fossil fuels. Embalming processes involve a lot of toxic and cancerous fluids. Burial clothing also tends to be nonbiodegradable or toxic to the environment.
Solution: There are multiple options for greener burials, including, but not limited to Flow Ice Urns, Bios Urns, shallow dug graves, non-toxic preservations, eternal coral reefs, garments for the grave, vinyl-pressed memorials, and alkaline hydrolysis cremations. Watch out for funeral homes trying to sell more expensive, nonbiodegradable caskets. Contact eco-friendly casket or urn providers and see if they ship to your city. Look for biodegradable materials in caskets including bamboo, seagrass, willow, shroud or other renewable materials. Keep in mind, if the burial happens within 24 to 48 hours, embalming is not usually required.
After-Service Food and Beverages
Preparation, packaging and delivering of produce, meats and other foods involve substantial use of plastics and gas. Some companies use unnatural preservatives to keep food from spoiling on the road. On average, it takes 1500 miles before delivered food gets to the average American household.
Solution: Whenever possible, choose locally sourced ingredients and reduce the amount of meat served. Also, be sure to ask your caterer if they offer biodegradable food packaging or at the very least, recyclable containers.
Imported floral arrangements produce a substantial amount of waste during the fertilization, refrigeration and transportation process. Florists also may use toxic amounts of herbicides and fungicides for preservation and cellophane plastic for wrapping to keep the flowers alive until delivery.
Solution: Contact a florist that uses locally grown, native, in-season flowers. Ask your florist for recyclable paper packaging. Avoid more flower waste by asking guests to donate to a cause you care about instead of offering flowers. Read 10 Ways To Preserve And Reuse Wedding Flowers.
Plantable Memorial Products for Green Burials & Life Celebrations
If you're looking for a beautiful way to commemorate and celebrate the life of a loved in a natural and eco-friendly way, consider Botanical PaperWorks plantable seed paper memorial cards and favors. Each piece is infused with seeds and made out of post-consumer paper. When you plant the paper, you’ll grow a wildflower garden as a beautiful living reminder of your loved one.
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