Individuals who are contemplating the end of their lives may be exploring options for a graceful departure, and one possibility worth considering is a green funeral, which involves eco-friendly burial practices.
Green funeral 101
Essentially, green funerals involve burying a person’s remains in natural surroundings using biodegradable containers, with the intention of allowing the body to decompose gradually and become one with the environment. The following are the key elements of green funerals:
- Ritual. A green funeral can proceed as in a regular funeral service, often with the assistance of a funeral home certified for natural burials, but the bulk of it should be held in an outdoor environment near a planned gravesite. It is up to the bereaved family to plan everything or as mapped out in a last will, including the option of a formal viewing. The body will not be embalmed, but must wear clothing made of natural fibres. If the deceased has had surgery that required metallic implantation, the remains must be entirely stripped of those materials and set aside for recycling, but this may also have the effect of the body not being available for formal viewing.
- Storage. Coffins or caskets are used in a green funeral, but they must be made of all-natural materials such as timber from sustainable forests. There are also coffins made of wicker-woven fibres including seagrass, willow, bamboo, and hemp.
In a number of cases, though, it is possible to simply wrap the remains in shrouds made of natural material like cotton or hemp then placed in the burial space. However, body shrouding must be carried out through a mortuary certified to handle natural burials.
Some companies are also exploring unique ways to aid a green funeral’s burial container options. Italian company Capsula Mundi, in particular, is offering biodegradable egg-shaped pods (via ANZ distributor Green Burials International) to store ashes. The pod will be placed in a small hole and buried with a tree plant above it. As the tree grows, the roots will reach the pod to access the essential nutrients from the ashes.
- Burial site. A green funeral’s gravesite will be unique in a sense. The location should be in a plot of undeveloped land or land that has been set up as the site of a natural cemetery, with a specific tree as the location marker. Instead of a marble or concrete tombstone, a simple rock with the details and epitaph written on can suffice. The pit would not be more than five feet deep to allow the nutrients from the remains to easily seep into the soil and for the coffin to gradually degrade in the process.
If the burial site is located on private property, the entire funeral must be cleared through your local council GM and public health director, even if you own the land itself.
In Australia, more public awareness is being shed on conducting green funerals as the events of the past three years drive home the complications of conducting time-honoured farewell rituals. All states and territories have their own established natural cemeteries but such sites are being brought up in more locales. Some people may even think the pandemic was part of Mother Nature’s vengeance for abusing the environment.
In Queensland, for example, at least two local administrations are addressing residents’ calls for more environmentally sustainable funerals. The Fraser Coast Regional Council recently updated its cemetery regulations with new natural burial guidelines, and a plot of land at the Danish Cemetery in Aalborg Road North, Nikenbah, will be the site of a new natural cemetery. The Sunshine Coast Council is also collaborating with Funerals Sunshine Coast and Regions Queensland to help local residents facilitate green funerals and identify sites in existing cemeteries as space for natural rites.
Benefits of a green funeral
A green funeral has been conducted amongst many cultures around the world and may have brought additional significance today, and to undergo one will offer some benefits.
- Cost. Green funerals may carry a much more affordable price tag than traditional funerals where the final cost is higher, mostly through elements such as picking a coffin or casket, hearse rentals, and building a grave liner or concrete casing. You also avoid the hassle of maintenance expenses that come with funeral plots such as caretaker fees, water supply, and, in the case of columbariums, space rentals.
- Chemical-free. A person’s remains that have been formally interred through a green funeral will not carry chemicals that might affect the environment, such as embalming fluid. If the deceased person was clothed in certain funeral garb, their loved ones will make sure that the fabric is all-natural so it can also degrade with the remains as well.
- Harmony with nature. Some families may have a certain affinity with the environment and want a green funeral to ensure their departed loved one returns to the earth in a smooth manner. Many studies also show that if a body is buried by natural means, their remains will provide nutrients for vegetation that grows over and around it. This is even more significant if the family has a property with ample acreage and are committed to maintain the place for future generations.
Why not cremation?
While cremation is often recommended to individuals seeking a more affordable funeral option, green funeral proponents may be less enthusiastic due to the additional CO2 emissions produced during the process and the potential use of toxic materials in the cremation equipment.
Even if the ashes are spread into natural environments such as vegetation, they contain large amounts of alkaline and sodium that can inhibit plant growth and damage the soil, especially if a big glop is doused on a single pack of plants.
The ASAG Reverse Mortgage
Some people say that in the end, Mother Nature is king. Passing away safely and being buried in a green funeral is a means to achieve it.
The ASAG Reverse Mortgage facility is in the right position to aid you with financing through Funeral Loans — for you or that of a family grieving a departed elderly loved one. Depending on the size of your property’s equity, the resulting loan amount would finance the entire funeral process. The borrower – or their estate in the case of the borrower passing away – can facilitate the payments in full if the property is sold or in regular payments with no fixed schedule.
To learn more about our equity release options, you can contact ASAG at 1300 002 724 or email us at email@example.com. You can also evaluate your own equity using the tool provided below.
DISCLAIMER: The Australian Seniors Advisory Group has no financial interests in the companies mentioned in this article.