How To Have An Environmentally Friendly Funeral

Posted: 05/02/2018

As we become increasingly aware of the environmental impact our very existence has on earth, and with the global population now over a staggering seven billion, (this equates to roughly 150,000 deaths each and every day,) it is perhaps unsurprising that more of us are considering an eco-friendly, ethical death.

Evidently, with nearly 38 million deaths recorded worldwide in 2016, it is clear that the number of funerals taking place will likely have a detrimental impact on our environment, contribution to the destruction of habits, and to the increase of global warming.

However, there are more green alternatives, it is, in fact, possible to have an environmentally friendly funeral. If you are unsure as to what this exactly involves, here is a guide to everything you need to know about eco-friendly funerals.

What constitutes an environmentally friendly funeral?

In order to be considered as environmentally friendly, there are certain criteria that a funeral should fit to be seen as a ‘green’ funeral, such as:

  • No embalming involved
  • The place of burial should not have a damaging effect on the local environment
  • If it is possible, the burial plot should also be able to service local wildlife – many green burial sites look much like forests rather than a traditional burial site
  • The place of burial shouldn’t be personalised – often the graves are not marked with a headstone
  • The coffin should be bio-degradable. This means that the coffin should be made from one of the following: banana leaf, bamboo, willow, wicker, cardboard or recycled paper
  • There should be no cremation
  • A shroud should also be made from environmentally-friendly materials

How to have an environmentally friendly funeral

There are different types of green funerals that exist on the market, these are some of the most popular:

Burial pods

As we know, the creation of a traditional coffin and the materials used during the burial process uses a lot of energy that can have a damaging effect on the environment. Nevertheless, if you opt for a  burial pod you can actually help the environment after your death instead.



What is a burial pod, you may ask? Well, your remains are placed into an organic burial pod with seeds, both of which are then buried in the earth. Eventually, over a number of years, the seeds will grow into a tree (source: The Guardian).

Bio-degradable coffins

As previously stated, one of the most evident ways to have an environmentally friendly funeral involves having a bio-degradable coffin and shroud. In the UK, the most popular options for bio-degradable coffins are wicker and cardboard. However, there is even an option to use water hyacinth too, as well as wool.

Grief balls

We may have mentioned that cremation doesn’t characteristically fit into what would be considered as an environmentally friendly funeral. This is true. However, if you still would like to opt for cremation but still want to do something that benefits the environment, it could be that Eternal Reefs are just the company for you. What this company does, is they create artificial coral reefs by using cremated remains which in turn help marine life.

Burial suits

If you are wondering what a burial suit is, you are not the only one. Fairly new to the environmentally friendly funeral scene, these full body suits are entirely biodegradable and are worn by the person who has passed away without harming the environment. The suit is able to remove toxic chemicals which are produced during the burial process, and it is also able to remove nutrients from the deceased which is then used to enrich the soil, helping the environment

Send alternatives to flowers

Many people feel that they would like to send to the deceased’s family flowers as a way of paying their respects. However, if you would like to have a more environmentally friendly funeral, it could be worth asking friends and family to instead donate to an eco-minded charity, or send a more green alternative. This could be even planting a tree in memory of the person who has passed away, or perhaps something on the more practical side of things – such as an offer to help with childcare or cook meals for a few days.

Eco-friendly urns

It is now possible to have a bio-degradable urn! If this sounds like something you would be interested in, then why not look at Bios Urn? With their urns, they are specifically designed with the intention of one day becoming a tree. The urn is buried with a tree seed, and as the urn decomposes the remains of the urn eventually become fertiliser for the plant that develops.

Water cremation

Whilst water cremation developments in the UK are currently on hold, it is possible to arrange one (also known as resomation) in some US states and parts of Canada. The process typically involves the remains of the deceased being placed inside a metal chamber, and through alkaline hydrolysis, the body is then reduced to liquid and ash. Water cremations reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 35% compared to traditional funerals.  The DNA free liquid that is produced from the process goes back into the water cycle, with the bone ash provided to the deceased’s family in an urn.

Woodland burials

If you would like to combine different environmentally friendly elements previously mentioned all at once, you may want to consider a woodland funeral. However, it is important to note that generally speaking, burial plots are not usually marked with a headstone so if you want your final resting place to be in a specific location, where your loved ones can regularly go to pay their respects, it may not be the right option for you. Many people do, however, opt for a ‘headstone’ made out of carved wood, instead.




However, if you are interested in the idea of a woodland burial – one of the most environmentally friendly ways to depart – then you may want to research natural burial grounds. If you are unsure how to go about this, your funeral director will be able to find one in your local area. Across the UK there are nearly 300 natural burial sites, with this number increasing year on year as people increasingly desire a more eco-friendly funeral.