What is a Green Funeral?

There has been much excitement about green funerals and natural burials, as many people want a funeral that is as natural as possible.

Some feel that they do not want to add pollution to the environment, whilst others want to know that their body becomes part of the earth and contributes to the cycle of life after their death. Some find great beauty in the natural world, and would like their death and their funeral to belong to this realm as closely as possible.

A green funeral usually involves a coffin made of natural, simple, biodegradeable materials and burial in a natural burial ground or on private land. As well as the coffin (or shroud) being made of biodegradable materials, what the person is dressed in should also be considered.

Usually there is no headstone or permanent marker on the grave but in a few sites a memorial tree may be planted. Other sites are designed as parkland, so do not have a tree for each person, and will remain as meadowland. Depth of grave is also a consideration. Green burial grounds will be at a shallower depth to allow for increased aerobic activity and therefore faster, more efficient breakdown. There will also be less methane released.

A wider aspect of green funerals is often the feeling that death is a natural part of life, and as such it may be more openly discussed.

This feeling allows for a cremation, as distinct from a burial. While not strictly a ‘green’ funeral –  a funeral imbued to a degree with the values, simplicity, and beauty of the natural world: a woven coffin, a less formal service, local, seasonal flowers, involvement from the family – all these can provide great comfort that the values of the person who has died have been upheld, but consistent with their wish to be cremated.

What is involved?

Generally speaking, people who choose a green funeral want to be more involved in the planning and carrying out of the funeral and to bring their own creativity, ideas, and care to the whole process.

This might involve helping in the preparation of the person’s body, but more certainly in the design, content, and delivery of the funeral ceremony itself – for example, the possibility of filling in the grave themselves.

Even if Family Tree Funeral Company is not being used as the funeral director, we encourage the attitude that every aspect of the process following a death is an important part of the ceremony, and can involve those closest to the person who has died, and this includes involving children.

Helpful information when planning a green funeral

Environmental concerns

Family Tree Funeral Company supports reduced consumption of energy and materials in our lavish culture. We can recommend coffins, gowns, liners, transport and burial and cremation practices that use less energy and fewer chemicals in their manufacture, and more easily revert to their natural state.

The environmental impact from traditional funeral practices can be reduced; but it is a complex subject. For example, bamboo that is harvested from wilderness areas of China – eating into the shrinking habitats of tigers and panda bears – may be environmentally less friendly than local willow.

In this choice, as in so many environmental decisions, there is usually an extra financial cost to consider. We are learning and asking questions, as are our suppliers, and this is without doubt a crucially important enquiry, one with which we can each be actively engaged.

There are other difficult environmental decisions to be made. There are times when embalming (with its carcinogenic formaldehydes) provides the temporary preservation that allows a family the breathing space that is needed for a proper farewell to happen. In other circumstances, the embalming process and its associated products would be clearly avoided.

It’s not all ‘damage limitation’ however. A positive contribution can be made by burial on a natural burial site, where green space is enriched, and supports a diverse wildlife habitat, preserved from extensive building projects or GM crops.

We are happy to be involved and talk with you about the ecological aspects of the funeral, and will work to arrive at a solution that is both right for you – and that takes account of a time beyond our own.

How green is your coffin?
A traditional ‘standard’ coffin is made from woodchip, bonded with formaldehyde glues with injection moulded plastic (looks like gold) handles. However, many coffins are made from natural and easily biodegradable materials, such as woven willow, pandanus fibre, cane, water hyacinth, banana leaf, bamboo, or timber grown from sustainable sources.

For burial only you can also have a simple cloth or felted woollen shroud (whose fabric can be obtained organically grown), or a state-of-the-art ‘ecopod’, made from re-cycled materials and covered with hand-made paper. You can see examples of our burial and cremation coffins here.

 

Transport
We can talk with you about more environmentally friendly transport…Perhaps a horse drawn grocer’s wagon (for a limited distance only), a bicycle hearse or a hand cart may be appropriate?

Local burial sites

Although there is still some space available in Brimscombe Cemetery’s ‘Meadow’ strip, the area around Family Tree Funeral Company is, surprisingly for Stroud, not particularly well served for natural burial grounds. However, various individuals and organisations are actively pursuing land suitable for local natural burial grounds in the belief that this not only meets the strong desire to have our dead buried close to the communities in which we live, but is also a valuable contribution to the environment.

The green burial site at Brimscombe is a bit hard to find and almost full, but quiet, and beautiful – though steep! It is the un-consecrated part just below the top path of this local cemetery It is run by Stroud District Council.

For more information you can contact us on 01453 767 769 or Stroud District Council 01453 754 451/420.

Other natural burial grounds

Residents of Slimbridge can avail themselves of the site at the far end of the new natural burial area of their cemetery. Local crematoria Gloucester, Cheltenham and Westerleigh all offer a ‘Green Burial’ area. More distant but arguably more attractive are ‘Greenfields Woodlands of Remembrance’ looking towards the Malvern Hills near Staunton GL19 3NZ, and a fine upland meadow looking over the White Horse Vale at Westmill Woodland Burial Ground near Coleshill, SN5 8TH.

We keep information on some burial sites outside of our own local Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset area, but for a full and up-to-the-minute list you should refer  to The Natural Death Centre on 0207 359 8391, or visit their website at www.naturaldeath.org

Green cremations?

Almost three-quarters of people in this country are cremated; while there are new and increasingly stringent controls on cremator emissions and insulation, (with considerable extra investment required), crematoria still use large amounts of natural gas, and produce significant – although much improved – emissions (a degree of atmospheric dioxin, and some mercury gas – from the amalgum in our fillings).

On the plus side, no extra land is used up, they are increasingly better regulated for emissions, and all crematoria now recycle the artificial hips, knees, elbows, and other metal body implants that remain after the ashes have cooled, rather than all being buried together in a special grave. (Titanium implants are now sold with the monies donated to charities).

Local crematoria require funeral directors to sign a declaration that there are no PVCs, plastics, fibreglass, styrofoams, zinc or rubber products in the coffin or in the clothing. Many crematoria now have a monitor that can detect such products while they are burning.

Greener ways to go in the future

A trend that may develop in line with its increased availability is that known as promession, which was developed in Sweden. This largely organic process freezes the body, vibrates it, dries the resulting granule particles and removes all the metals. The remains can be buried in a coffin (which can be buried at a depth where the micro organisms break it all down inside a year) or used as a compost ingredient or mulch. Several UK Councils are actively considering this new approach.

‘Alkaline hydrolysis’ or ‘Water Resomation’ is a process of breaking down the body using heat, pressure, and potassium hydroxide to create a sterile liquid and a bone powder. It is operating in three US states, and is currently being considered by various UK cemetery authorities.

The company Recompose have recently had their progressive method approved in Washington State. Recomposition gently converts human remains into soil. Heat-loving microbes and bacteria break down the body – including bones and teeth – over a period of 30 days.

More organic ways of dealing with a person’s body after they have died are definitely on hte way – although ‘open air cremations’ are unlikely to feature locally.

“It does not seem almost a month ago that we all gathered to say goodbye to J. Family and friends still agree that it was a strangely beautiful day, and beneficial to all of us in our various states of …

Read More

S.D

Frampton on Severn

“It does not seem almost a month ago that we all gathered to say goodbye to J. Family and friends still agree that it was a strangely beautiful day, and beneficial to all of us in our various states of shock and grief. K – J’s friend, thanked us for ‘the proudest moment of his life’ – and it was clearly important to many others that J. had a ‘hands-on’ farewell. Thank you for that.”

S.D

Frampton on Severn

“Thank you. Thank you for making what could have been a nightmare very beautiful. You inspired us to be creative and to truly celebrate our daddy openly, and we are all very grateful to you for that…

Read More

H.B

Bath

“Thank you. Thank you for making what could have been a nightmare very beautiful. You inspired us to be creative and to truly celebrate our daddy openly, and we are all very grateful to you for that. It is profound and beautiful to turn sad introspection into theatrical celebration – and that was in fact the essence of our father. He would have loved it! Thank you for your patience and kindness.”

H.B

Bath

“Incredible, yesterday. Most splendid funeral I have ever attended, and unfortunately I have attended many. Thank you again. I know you made my granddaughter happy. She is a different girl today, mu…

Read More

R

Stroud

“Incredible, yesterday. Most splendid funeral I have ever attended, and unfortunately I have attended many. Thank you again. I know you made my granddaughter happy. She is a different girl today, much more positive, and going back to college next week ……….your “send-off” for her mother did something wonderful for her.”

R

Stroud

“It was a beautiful funeral; I know that if you had not been so flexible and had so many good ideas it would not have been like this. We’ve had lots of feedback from Mum’s friends about what a g…

Read More

Q

Stroud

“It was a beautiful funeral; I know that if you had not been so flexible and had so many good ideas it would not have been like this. We’ve had lots of feedback from Mum’s friends about what a good funeral it was.”

Q

Stroud

“On behalf of my mother, and my wife, I sincerely thank you for all your kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion shown to us all before, during, and after Dad’s funeral. I was a deeply emotional t…

Read More

L.T

Cashes Green, Stroud

“On behalf of my mother, and my wife, I sincerely thank you for all your kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion shown to us all before, during, and after Dad’s funeral. I was a deeply emotional time for us, and your personal assistance helped us enormously. The planning for Dad’s funeral was so trouble free, all thanks to you. We all had no doubts that everything would not run smoothly on the day with you at the helm, and as thought, it did. The layout and contents of Dad’s service sheet just added the final touch to making Dad’s funeral so memorable for us. Thanks again for all your support.”

L.T

Cashes Green, Stroud

“I am so glad to have had your kindly and helpful support over the past couple of years whilst I have been preparing for Mum’s death. My sister and I found your gentle, low-key, but professional p…

Read More

Dr B.W

Malvern

“I am so glad to have had your kindly and helpful support over the past couple of years whilst I have been preparing for Mum’s death. My sister and I found your gentle, low-key, but professional presence during the closing of the coffin – and throughout the funeral – very reassuring, and we both thank you most sincerely for making the experience one of great calm and peace.”

Dr B.W

Malvern

“We were all extremely happy with your arrangements for Mum’s funeral – she left clear instructions for some of the main details and I believe we complied with them in a dignified and intimate w…

Read More

D.O

Kings Stanley

“We were all extremely happy with your arrangements for Mum’s funeral – she left clear instructions for some of the main details and I believe we complied with them in a dignified and intimate way. I have not attended many funeral ceremonies in my life but I believe we all felt that we could not have done more to make it a more meaningful occasion and one in which we all could make a personal contribution. I think it can be too easy to be a superficial participant. I thank you again for your discrete participation.”

D.O

Kings Stanley

“Thank you once again for all your care, support and concern during the past couple of weeks.”

V.W

Chalford

“Thank you once again for all your care, support and concern during the past couple of weeks.”

V.W

Chalford

“Instead of it being a very sad and stilted occasion, it seemed to me a very natural progression from a very happy life to a well earned rest. Your kind way of steering us all in the right direction, an…

Read More

V.C

Nailsworth

“Instead of it being a very sad and stilted occasion, it seemed to me a very natural progression from a very happy life to a well earned rest. Your kind way of steering us all in the right direction, and ensuring that things ran smoothly without a lot of fuss was very much appreciated. It was very pleasing for us all to be able to play our part under your quiet guidance.”

V.C

Nailsworth

“We want to say how fortunate we feel to have had the pleasure of meeting you, and how confidently we feel that our wishes will be met.”

E.L and B.J

Painswick

“We want to say how fortunate we feel to have had the pleasure of meeting you, and how confidently we feel that our wishes will be met.”

E.L and B.J

Painswick

“Thank you again for looking after us so beautiful as we arranged Dad’s funeral. We could not have been in better hands. We were able to put all our trust in you and you made it a remarkably special d…

Read More

J.C

Avening

“Thank you again for looking after us so beautiful as we arranged Dad’s funeral. We could not have been in better hands. We were able to put all our trust in you and you made it a remarkably special day.”

J.C

Avening

“From the first few word we exchanged on the telephone, it was clear that Family Tree were the people to take care of everything. They dropped round a few minutes later, very quickly understood what I had in mind, and artfully made the…

Read More

W.R

Stroud

“From the first few word we exchanged on the telephone, it was clear that Family Tree were the people to take care of everything. They dropped round a few minutes later, very quickly understood what I had in mind, and artfully made the necessary arrangements. Without their reassuring presence, sensitivity and professionalism, the celebration would not have been the magnificent occasion that it was.”

From his published tribute to B’s life “Then Shall You Truly Dance”

W.R

Stroud

“A rather belated note to say thank you for your help in arranging Mum’s funeral. You listened to all our requests, and responded sensitively and accurately; you helped us make decisions when we dithe…

Read More

C.G

Kings Stanley

“A rather belated note to say thank you for your help in arranging Mum’s funeral. You listened to all our requests, and responded sensitively and accurately; you helped us make decisions when we dithered, and were very patient. On the day, your organization was well planned and unobtrusive. Your choice of other members for your team was great. It was a great funeral. Thank you.”

C.G

Kings Stanley

“My family and I would like to thank you and your company for the way that you handled the interment of my wife’s ashes on Monday last. It wasn’t a day that I had been looking forward to, but after …

Read More

“My family and I would like to thank you and your company for the way that you handled the interment of my wife’s ashes on Monday last. It wasn’t a day that I had been looking forward to, but after I felt at ease that it had finally been done. K and I both agreed that your resume of E’s life and character was done with compassion and sympathy, although you hadn’t met her; also the reading of the poem was perfect, and seemed to reflect the spirit of the day. Our thanks again, and we hope to see you on perhaps a happier occasion.”

“It was a deeply emotional time, a time of healing through which you guided us in the most gentle and supportive way. We are most grateful”

I.C

“It was a deeply emotional time, a time of healing through which you guided us in the most gentle and supportive way. We are most grateful”

I.C

“We would never, ever have done it like this without you”

S.R

“We would never, ever have done it like this without you”

S.R

“Once again a big thank you from me and from all in the family, esp. the old man! It really worked for him! This morning he said “I wonder what the stuffy people thought of it!” with a mischievous c…

Read More

L

“Once again a big thank you from me and from all in the family, esp. the old man! It really worked for him! This morning he said “I wonder what the stuffy people thought of it!” with a mischievous chuckle….giving it his approval….so we managed to bring the opposites together and all were honoured.”

L

“Our family cannot thank you enough for ensuring that we created a beautiful and fitting service yesterday. The flowers, which have travelled beautifully, were the most extraordinary collection ever…

Read More

J.T

Stroud

“Our family cannot thank you enough for ensuring that we created a beautiful and fitting service yesterday. The flowers, which have travelled beautifully, were the most extraordinary collection ever, the coffin too, and the format was perfect. Like you, I have a very grim memory of my father’s funeral and know how badly these things can go, so we are all very grateful and ever in your debt. It is encouraging and wonderful to know that there is such care in the community.”

J.T

Stroud

Contact us at any time for funeral assistance

We will work with you to design and arrange the exact type of funeral that you and your family feel is right for the person who has died. 
Our aim is to work with you to make it special, and then make it all happen smoothly.

Pin It on Pinterest