“Greening” the traditional death care options

You can’t get away from it anywhere.  There is a lot of talk on the national political stages about “Green Energy” and the environmental movement.  In the death care world we have been hearing that recomposition (the art of human composting) and alkaline hydrolysis (known by some as “cremation by water”) are going to be the ways our industry helps out in this movement.

While we are thinking about our solutions here, there are some in Great Britain who are actively moving to “Green” our traditional death care options like cremation and earth burial.

I’m of the opinion that moving “Green” can be a great asset to humankind as we move forward, but I also recognize that by doing it “too fast” has economic consequences of its own.  For instance, electric cars.  One of my good friends is a retired CEO of an agricultural company whose main business was selling seeds to farm clients.  He told me that fully 1/3 of the corn crop in agricultural strong Minnesota goes into making ethanol — a greener option than straight gasoline for combustionable engines – and much used to power our cars in Minnesota.  Corn as it grows also helps the environmental air, not to mention when harvested provides an income to farm families.  Has anybody thought about them in a green revolution that includes only electric cars?

So, as I said, moving “Green” is great, but let’s find a way where we don’t pick the winners and losers.  In Great Britain, I’m seeing evidence that death care companies are moving in that direction while still holding on to traditional earth burial and cremation practices.  For instance, here’s an article that tells the story of the a Tesla Model S hearse coming to the Southern Funeral Co-op in the south of England.  The company also took delivery of two new hybrid Mercedes limousines and two Mercedes converted hybrid hearses.  At low speeds, the hybrids run on electricity.

And, United Kingdom direct cremation provider, Pure Cremation, has had their organization assessed in order to become a carbon neutral company.  You can read about that here.  Here are some of the things that Pure Cremation has been able to do in order to lower that carbon footprint:

  • Use electronic documents so customers arrange the cremation from the comfort of home, rather than making multiple trips to a funeral parlor
  • Manage the transportation of the deceased in a very efficient way
  • Reduce the transportation of the deceased by having mortuary facilities within the crematorium site
  • Reduce the transport miles/coffin by purchasing eco-coffins in bulk
  • Carry out a very high volume of cremations in one location, dramatically reducing the consumption of gas used for each cremation
  • Apply the latest filtration technology to minimize harmful emissions, including dust filters to remove particulates and carbon filtration to eliminate toxins like mercury
  • Recover heat from within the crematory and wider building to reduce overall fossil fuel consumption
  • Offer a unique, biodegradable urn whose photo wrapper has been printed using vegetable inks
  • Offer an on-line book of remembrance to reduce memorial visits to the crematorium

Finally, I read this interesting article about how William Purves – Scotland’s largest independent funeral director – has launched what is thought to be the first smartphone app offering carbon neutral funerals.  The app, called Greener Goodbyes, allows families to calculate the carbon footprint of funeral arrangements to reduce environmental impact.

According to the article, Chairman Tim Purves says this, “Increasingly, the families we work with are looking for more sustainable options when it comes to funeral arranging, and we are delighted to support anyone wishing to make a greener choice.”

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

Again, according to the article the app “calculates the carbon footprint of a funeral based on decisions around key elements that typically make up a funeral – whether to cremate or bury, choice of coffin, means of transport, and the number of attendees.  These elements can be measured to provide a carbon footprint value equivalent. With this new knowledge, those planning funerals can choose more sustainable options or buy carbon credits to offset the carbon cost.  (Purves) hopes the app will give consumers the tools to make a conscious choice based on the funeral that gives the lowest carbon footprint.”

Funeral Director Daily take:  Recomposition, alkaline hydrolysis, and green burials may well become a trend that more and more in our North American population choose to use.  I think, considering the environmental movement all around us, that is a pretty logical assumption.

However, as the United Kingdom firms are showing, it does not mean that traditional funeral homes cannot improve their traditional offerings to become more ecological in nature as well.  I’m one who has always done well by making small, incremental changes rather than sweeping constructural changes all at once in my business history.  If you’re like me, maybe before making the investment in alkaline hydrolysis or going all-in on human composting you can gain some consumer following by installing solar panels to help your heating and cooling or you can buy hybrid lead cars for your procession, or you can simply make sure that you use the closest crematory to the place of death to cut down on auto emissions.

I think the key is first to simply look to where you could make modifications that would be good for the environment and good public relations in this day and age.  That in itself would be a move in the environmental direction for your firm.

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1 Comment

  1. Jasmine Hucks on December 9, 2021 at 11:13 am

    What a great article to read!

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