Whilst we’re all busy worrying about greening up our lifestyles, we don’t pay all that much attention to how we’ll spend the far greater amount of time we won’t be around for. With the world’s human population now at over seven billion, and with an estimated 150,000 human deaths around the globe each day, it’s about time we took the coffin by its brass handles and flung it into the fire for the last time.
1. Barrier grief
Of all the ways to throw away your leftovers, cremation isn’t the most sustainable. But if you’re dead set on it, you may as well turn yourself into something environmentally helpful once it’s done. Eternal Reefs will turn your ashes into artificial coral reefs or ‘reef balls’ to support marine life at a time when the earth’s natural reefs are deteriorating significantly.
2. Back to the Fishes
If cremation is too greenhouse-gaseous for your liking, you could always opt for resomation, which breaks down the body chemically by alkaline hydrolysis. This cuts the gas emissions of a funeral by 35% according to Sustain. The sterile, DNA-free liquid remains are returned to the water cycle, whilst the leftover ash is given in an urn to the deceased’s nearest and dearest. Before this can go ahead, the process has to be regulated. It is available in some US states already, and the company is waiting for permission to get set up here in the UK.
3. The Tree of Afterlife
For those who really yearn for an urn but want to keep their eco credentials intact, Bios Urn has come up with a biodegradable urn which will sprout the tree of your choice when the time comes. Once ashes are added, the urn is buried, the tree begins to grow, and the urn decomposes. Eventually, the whole thing becomes a part of the sub-soil and fertiliser for the tree.
4. Compostable coffin
We’ve been aware of alternative coffin materials like cardboard and wicker for a while, but we didn’t realise that anything from bamboo to banana leaf and water hyacinth is now used too. Wool is another alternative to wooden coffins, and Hainsworth – one of the UK’s leading textile mills, reported a 700% rise in demand for its woollen coffins in the year 2011-12.
5. Fairer forestry
Sometimes only wood will do, but you don’t have to go for the traditional mahogany coffins cut from an endangered rainforest tree. Instead, you can pick a more sustainable wood from Oak Funerals who use waste and FSC-certified woods and biodegradable cotton lining.
6. Delete the meat
No, this isn’t as horrifying as it sounds – a vegetarian wake is easy to arrange, and it cuts your emissions. Check out your local health food shops for finger-food options.
7. A little less leaf
As traditional as it is to send flowers to the bereaved, they aren’t the most eco-friendly of gifts. One nifty alternative is to request donations to charity in lieu of flowers – perhaps a charity related to the deceased in some way would be an apt choice. Otherwise, planting a tree which will live on or taking a few meals to the bereaved can make a tangible difference.
8. Come together
If more than one person is coming from the same place, encourage them to share a ride, and if the journey is long then remember that train beats plane!
9. Eco Cleanup
We tend to leave a lot of stuff behind at the end of our lives. Instead of throwing the deceased’s belongings away, find someone who can love those figurines just as much as grandma did. She’d like that. This is also an opportunity to hold onto those bits and pieces you attach sentimental value to. When it comes to cleaning up the house, check out Bio-D – they’re a British cleaning products company with super eco cred!
10. The last song will last forever
For those who are especially fond of music, perhaps becoming a vinyl record is the way to go. Although not the most eco-friendly of methods, And Vinyly does offer a somewhat unique method of ash disposal. You can record a message or put together a compilation of songs for your loved ones, and you can get a portrait painted for the sleeve, all for the sum of £3,000. Better start saving.