In the funeral sector, there’s a well-established tradition of eco-products and services.
From wicker coffins to woodland burials, pretty much every funeral director in the land is able to cater to green tastes.
Up to now, this has been a niche market.
This is changing, thanks to growing awareness of the perilous state of nature and the climate system. Funeral director clients now want businesses to start doing their bit.
But how does the public distinguish between one green product and another? And can environmental credentials in coffin brochures be trusted?
As a business that makes coffins and caskets whose key selling point is their environmental performance, we care a lot about giving the public clear, reliable information.
When it comes to coffins, the first and foremost thing families need to consider is whether the funeral is going to be a cremation or a burial.
If it’s a cremation, then it’s important to consider what greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be produced during the cremation process.
If your funeral director is unable to provide such data, then you should ask them for details of the coffin supplier and then ask questions of them. Transparency in supply chains is important.
If a coffin is going to be buried, then you’ll want to know if it’s biodegradable and whether it contains any plastics, which might be found in the handles and lining.
Many MDF or particleboard coffins contain formaldehyde and toxic glues, which are not kind to the planet.
As a funeral director client, you might also want to ask how the wood is sourced. Can it be verified sustainable or is there a risk that it’s driving deforestation?
If you’re opting for a wicker coffin (likely made of willow or bamboo), you might want to ask where it’s been produced. If it’s been made overseas, is there a Fairtrade arrangement in place?
Wicker coffins have been seen as the preserve of more eco-minded families. But how is the willow farmed - is it organic and nature-friendly, or are farmers using toxic weedkillers and lethal pest control?
Many coffin brochures offered in funeral homes will describe how coffins come from “environmentally-responsible” sources.
None seem to mention what happens to a coffin when it goes into a cremator or the ground.
Every funeral product is going to have an impact on the environment but some will perform much better than others.
We think it’s time funeral arrangers were equipped with this information, to help families make an informed choice when saying goodbye to a loved one.