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Making Eco-Friendly Choices about Your Funeral Arrangements

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Being environmentally aware all your life, you intentionally lighten your environmental footprint.  Increasingly, people are considering making eco-friendly or green choices for their departure from earth in terms of their funeral arrangements.

The three R’s of environmental responsibility can be adapted to end of life planning as well.  Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.


Not so long ago the “traditional” funeral would involve 2 even 3 days of visitation, followed by a funeral service and then burial in a cemetery.

This is changing.  Often people want to minimize the time commitment and stress on their loved ones by having one day of visiting and the funeral service or celebration of life service the next day.  There is another option of having the visiting and the funeral or celebration of life service all on the same day.

Other ways to reduce the time and distance traveled by people is:

  • on line funeral,
  • memorial,
  • tributes, or celebration of life services.

People can be there virtually and not physically travel to the funeral destination.  Online tributes are mainstream for many funeral homes now and people can E-mail their thoughts to the family.

Families are deciding to drive themselves to funeral homes and services and eliminating the use of a limousine.

In terms of the funeral service, people can decline to have the body embalmed; this would reduce the use of embalming fluids.  However there is a caveat here.  The Public Health Office can order that a body be embalmed or cremated immediately if an individual dies of an infectious disease.

At the cemetery you can reduce your costs and environmental impact by burying the casket directly into the ground, rather than having the casket placed in a concrete crypt or vault first.  The cemetery bylaws will override family wishes, as many cemeteries prefer that the casket be placed in an outer crypt or vault before the casket is buried.

Other ways to reduce your carbon footprint are to select merchandise that is a renewable resource.  For example caskets made of select woods, rather than solid hardwood or softwood, result in 95% of the tree being used.

Many Funeral Homes participate in a tree replanting program.  Memory Woods Canada has planted over 6 million trees in Algonquin Park.  Ask if the funeral home you work with supports this initiative and if they are certified by the Green Burial Council.

There is also a wide range of biodegradable urns made from recycled paper that will decompose faster than metals, woods, or stone urns.

Flowers have often been sent to acknowledge that a person died and provide support to the family.  More often now, families are indicating favorite charities for donations in lieu of flowers.


Well this may be the more difficult R to achieve in funeral preplanning; the casket and urn manufacturers have developed rental casket and rental urn options.  The notion of a rental casket is that a hardwood or select wood outer shell is the outer case for an inner cremation container.  This type of casket is used for people who wish to have visitation, and a funeral or celebration of life service prior to cremation.  After the service the rental casket is returned to the funeral home, the funeral director will remove the inner cremation container, and the outer shell can be reused by the next eco-conscious consumer.

A rental urn is a decorative outer case for cremated remains. Typically cremated remains are returned to the funeral home inside a plastic bag and the plastic bag is inside a small rectangular cardboard box.  Some people want the urn displayed on a table with pictures and flowers at the memorial service, yet do not want to purchase an urn.  Typically they want to scatter the cremated remains after the memorial service and have no use for an urn after that.

The family could ask that eyeglasses be removed prior to burial or cremation and donated to a service club that will refurbish the glasses to help another in need. This can be noted in funeral pre-arrangements.

Whole body donation may fit into the reuse notion.  However there are fewer medical anatomical schools accepting whole body donation.  The one exception is if a person has a known orphan disease and there is interest to learn more about the pathology of this disease after the death of the individual.


Paper products such as prayer cards or the order of service pamphlets can be recycled after the celebration of life. Or the need for paper can be eliminated by having the words of readings or songs projected onto a screen.

Even the choice of disposition burial or cremation can be environmentally conscious.

Natural or Green earth burial is gaining momentum.  The casket, lined with unbleached cotton, may be buried, chemical free, in a biodegradable casket, directly in the ground, without the use of an outer concrete crypt or vault.  The casket could be manufactured from renewable resources such as: wood, cane or bamboo.  These “Ecopods” will decompose faster to nurture the earth’s vibrant ecosystem.  There are two natural cemeteries certified by Canada’s Natural Burial Association – one in Victoria and Union Cemetery in Cobourg. The natural burial option provides more open spaces for a park of wildlife reserve.

Cremation, an increasing popular choice of disposition allows for many green options.  The cremated remains may be placed into a biodegradable urn, floated on the water allowing the urn to dissolve and the remains descend into the water.  Cremated remains may also be scattered, buried, or entombed on cemetery property.  Another option is to keep the cremated remains at home, or bury or scatter the remains on your personal property or crown lands.

The ultimate recycling program is to consent to organ and tissue donation.   It is more likely that we will be in potential need of organs or tissues, than consent to being a donor.  Many people are waiting for that call an organ or tissue match has been found..  For example, one donor can help up to 8 people with organ donation and 75 people with tissue donation.

In a perfect world, our wishes are documented with a funeral home and we had a wonderful conversation with our family to let them know what we would like to have done in the end.  Indicating our environment choices to reduce our carbon footprint when we die, will also help to reduce the emotional and financial impact on you loved ones.

As a Chinese proverb says:  The faded ink is better than the forgotten memory.”

If you have any questions about the eco-friendly options, I would love to speak with you. Feel free to send me your feedback and don’t forget to leave a link back to your own blog too if you have one via the commentluv feature here on the site.

Until next time,




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