Green funerals: how to make your funeral more sustainable

With more people now concerned about the environment, environmentally friendly funerals are becoming more popular. After all, when your loved one dies, many of us feel it’s important to plan a funeral that reflects their values. Read our guide to learn more about how you can honour your friend or family member’s beliefs with an eco-friendly funeral service.

What are green funerals?

Green funerals take the environmental impact of the memorial and burial into consideration, aiming to leave a smaller carbon footprint than a traditional service.

If your loved one has requested an alternative to a traditional burial or cremation, there are many ways that you can make your funeral plans more environmentally friendly. Some of these are:

  • Using a biodegradable coffin made from materials that have minimal environmental impacts
  • Forgoing a headstone to keep the site as natural as possible
  • Planting a tree as a memorial
  • Opting for burial over cremation, as cremation requires a lot of fuel and produces high levels of CO2
  • Not embalming the body. This process of preserving a body requires chemicals that are not environmentally friendly when left in the ground
  • Organising minimal vehicles for funeral attendees. Because cars have a negative impact on the environment, carpooling where possible can reduce the funeral’s carbon footprint

Biodegradable coffins

If you have opted for a green burial for your loved one, you may want to consider options for eco coffins. Eco coffins are made from natural, sustainable materials that biodegrade, meaning they will break down and become part of the earth. Materials used include:

  • Cardboard
  • Bamboo
  • Pine
  • Willow
  • Banana leaf
  • British Wool

Speak to your funeral director about the different types of biodegradable coffin available at your chosen funeral home.  

Woodland burials

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly alternative to a traditional funeral or cremation, a woodland burial could be the answer. Unlike a traditional funeral, woodland burial sites consider the environmental impacts of laying someone to rest in the ground and focus on making a small or non-existent carbon footprint.

Also known as a green burial or natural burial, woodland burials leave behind traditional cemeteries in favour of woodland burial grounds, including meadows and forests. This offers a picturesque resting place for your loved one.

What happens at a woodland burial?

Woodland burials are considered more flexible than a traditional funeral. They do not require hymns or religious readings to be part of the service – although these can be incorporated if you wish. Natural burials are free of expectations and tradition, allowing you the freedom to truly consider your loved one’s final wishes as you lay them to rest. As well as this, the bucolic woodland setting in which the burial takes place can inspire a truly beautiful ceremony. Here are some ideas:

  • A memory walk. This allows the funeral party to wander through the woodland site at their leisure, ending at your loved one’s burial plot
  • A simple service at the burial plot. Friends and family can recite poems, read meaningful book extracts or recall happy memories of the deceased
  • A traditional indoor service. Some burial sites have a building or centre where a more traditional-style service can be held
  • An outdoor wake. Some sites offer special areas such as yurts, large tents or gazebos for a wake

One of the main appeals of a woodland funeral is its flexibility. As long as you follow the site rules, generally focused on protecting the site, you can create a memorable ceremony that’s personal to you.

For more information about green funerals, including how much eco funerals cost, please contact your local funeral directors where our dedicated team will be happy to discuss our eco-friendly funeral services.

Step by step guide

There are several steps in the Funeral Planning process you will have to consider.

Types of funerals​

There are a number of different types of funerals available. Which type of funeral service is right for your loved one?

What happens at a cremation service?

Cremations are fast becoming the norm in Britain with over 70% of families choosing this type of
funeral.

Further Reading: Cost of a funeral

Find out about funeral costs and what financial support could be available.