Planning a funeral is not exactly anyone’s favorite thing to do. It can be tough for grieving families to take on this task, especially given the many choices that are available. How the funeral will impact the environment might be the last thing on their minds during this sad time.

That’s why it might be important for people to think about their own funerals. If you care about the planet, it may be wise to read on about how this could be done.

What exactly is an eco-friendly funeral?

Chances are, you’re already familiar with the idea of something being “eco-friendly”. This simply means that you are doing your best to care for the environment and the planet.

That may include making choices or purchases based on how much harm they cause to the environment—minimizing air, water or land pollution and conserving natural resources such as water and forests.

Having an eco-friendly funeral means caring for the environment even in death. The body is returned to the earth in the gentlest or most natural way possible. There are many ways you can have an eco-friendly funeral, but you may need to do some planning while you’re still alive.

Planning for a funeral

If arranging a funeral is tough, then thinking about your own maybe even harder. Still, making some decisions or arrangements in advance may be helpful no matter what kind of funeral you want.

In the case of eco-friendly funerals, you may want to let the close family know about this wish. As you’ll see, sustainable options aren’t always the first ones that come to people’s minds. It can also be easy to forget about these sorts of details when you’re consumed by grief.

Having a discussion with your family and even writing down your preference for an eco-friendly funeral could help this wish be followed when it comes time.

Funerals cost money

Though many eco-friendly options cost less than more conventional ones, you may still be surprised by just how expensive they can be.

The burden of paying is typically left to grieving families, who may struggle to come up with the money needed on short notice.

Sometimes, they may even go into debt paying for a loved one’s service and burial. No matter what type of funeral you decide on, funeral insurance could be a good way to help your family cover these costs.

What makes a burial environmentally friendly?

Most people probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about funerals, so they may not realize how environmentally unfriendly they can be. Many parts of a “traditional” Western burial are not very sustainable.

Embalming—the process of preserving the body before burial—typically uses harsh chemicals. These can be released into the ground or water table over time.

One way this can be made better for the environment is by using essential oils to help preserve the body or by skipping embalming altogether.

Burial using conventional caskets can also be bad for the environment. Many caskets use non-degradable materials, like velvet linings, metal handles, and chemically treated wood.

Families may also place objects made of plastic or metal in the casket or dress the deceased in fabrics that won’t break down.

Instead, you may decide on a casket made of friendlier materials, like bamboo, untreated pine or even thick cardboard. Ask that no objects be placed in the coffin before the burial.

In some areas, you can be buried wrapped in just a linen or muslin burial shroud, which might be the best option for the planet.

Cremation is often seen as an eco-friendly alternative to burial, but it has its downsides as well. A lot of fuel and energy are needed to burn the body, and the process also gives off toxic fumes. Water “cremation” is slowly gaining popularity as a way around this, but it’s not widely available at this time.

Can a religious or cultural funeral be eco-friendly?

Many religions and cultures have different ideas about how a funeral should take place. You may want to follow these traditions but also do right by the planet. If you can’t get around certain customs, you can do your bit to be as eco-friendly as possible in other ways:

  • Ask mourners to carpool to and from the funeral to cut down on fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
  • Print order of service booklets on recycled paper, or don’t have them at all.
  • Be buried in a woodland burial site instead of a conventional cemetery.
  • Offer a vegetarian or vegan-friendly reception.
  • Ask for donations to a cause rather than receiving flowers.

Caring for the environment doesn’t need to end with our deaths. As you can see, there are many ways to plan a funeral that’s not only sustainable but also respectful and touching.

By planning an eco-friendly funeral, you may even inspire others to do the same. That’s a wonderful legacy to leave behind.