Eco-friendly funeral: explore the possibilities

The environment is a current theme, also for funerals. More and more people are concerned about the environment, and there are many ways to organize a eco-friendly funeral. Consider, for example, an electric hearse, funeral cards made of 100% recycled paper and organic catering. Would you like to find out more? At PC Uitvaart, we stand ready to review the green options with you.

Why

The choice for an eco-friendly funeral is a choice for the future. With respect for the environment, people, animals and nature. Because a conscientious life requires a conscientious funeral. When organizing an eco-friendly funeral, we look together at environmentally friendly options. From a coffin of FSC wood (sustainable wood) to vegetarian appetizers made from local products and from the use of electric funeral transport to planting a tree to compensate CO2. That is how we are working together for a sustainable world, also for generations to come.

Cremation

Nearly 70% of Dutch people opt for cremation; in large cities such as Amsterdam, this percentage is even higher. It is a fact that each funeral emits a certain amount of CO2: for burial, that is 95 kilos, and for cremation, more than 200 kilos. That is as much CO2 emissions as a flight from Amsterdam to Madrid. This is of course a burden on the environment. In order to contribute to a sustainable world, it is possible to offset the emissions of a funeral through our partner, Trees for All. A tree is planted in honour of the deceased. This tree absorbs about 20 kilos of CO2 emissions in a year and serves as a tribute to the deceased. The remaining emissions are offset through a donation to sustainable forest projects abroad.

Burial

A burial is less harmful to the environment than a cremation, but it still emits an average of 95 kilos of CO2. An eco-friendly alternative that is gaining in popularity is a nature burial. With a nature burial, the deceased is buried in nature. In fact, it is the oldest and most natural form of burial. The clothing of the deceased must be made of materials that easily biodegrade in nature. Examples are a shroud or a coffin of raw wood. A natural grave monument may often be placed. An example of this is a board or a slice from a tree on which the name or a message can be written.

Clothing

Synthetic clothing does not biodegrade and is more harmful to the environment when cremated than clothing made of natural materials. Organic cotton, linen, silk, or hemp garments are eco-friendly options for both burial and cremation.

Coffin

There are coffins that are completely biodegradable when buried and that cause virtually no air pollution when cremated. These are made from organic residual waste. A plywood coffin is the least eco-friendly choice. The glue used to produce plywood contains formaldehyde, which is harmful to the environment. A good alternative is a wooden coffin made of unpainted Dutch wood from sustainably managed forests. To give a coffin a personal touch, it can be painted. Especially for children, this is a great way to say farewell. By choosing ecological paint, the impact on the environment is reduced.

Shrouds, laying out planks & funeral baskets

A coffin is not mandatory in the Netherlands. For example, you may also opt for a shroud made of hemp, linen or wool. A laying out plank (or bearing plank) is then necessary. It can be made from various materials such as sustainable wood, willow or bamboo. Another eco-friendly option is a funeral basket made from sustainably grown bamboo, reed, banana leaf, or locally grown willow trees. Baskets and coffins are unholstered. The most durable upholstery is made from hemp, jute, nettle fibre or linen

Laying out

To keep the body of a deceased person in good condition until the funeral, it is cooled. This can be done in a cooling unit at a funeral home. This costs energy and causes CO2 emissions. Cooling by means of sod placed around the body is an eco-friendly alternative. Another eco-friendly laying out method involves the use of bags of activated carbon. This keeps the body preserved in a natural way. Moreover, the body does not get as cold as with traditional methods.

Mourning cards

Mourning cards made from 100% recycled paper are an eco-friendly choice. Or choose a digital mourning card and send it via e-mail and/or social media to save paper.

Transport & location

Transport is the most polluting part of a funeral. Not only must the deceased be transported, the guests must also travel on the day of the funeral. To limit the travel kilometres during the day, you may choose to keep the funeral in one location. Or choose locations within walking distance of each other. If you prefer an eco-friendly hearse, you may, for example, opt for a Tesla electric vehicle. Another idea is to use a funeral bus. The bus has fifteen to twenty seats and can transport a small group together with the deceased. In addition, there are many options for eco-friendly funeral transport for short distances, such as a bicycle hearse, a walking cart and a special cart that is pulled by a cow. 

Flowers

For many people, flowers are an intrinsic part of a funeral. But many flowers are grown in other countries and are flown here. There are eco-friendly alternatives, such as a flower arrangement or bouquet of seasonal flowers grown in the Netherlands.

Catering

After the funeral, a chat with coffee, tea and sandwiches or perhaps an extensive reception is an important part of the funeral. You might choose organic regional and seasonal products from local suppliers and/or products with the FairTrade label. Vegetarian foods have less impact on the environment because their production emits less CO2 than that of animal-based products.

Urn

If you would like an eco-friendly urn, it is best to choose one made of natural renewable materials, such as earthenware, unpainted Dutch wood or vegetable-based composite. There are also urns made of bamboo, banana leaf, willow twigs and wool felt. Urns made of natural stone, steel and bronze are less eco-friendly: Producing urns from these materials takes a lot of energy. If you would like to bury the urn, a fully biodegradable urn made of vegetable materials is a good choice. Another option is to let the ashes of the deceased serve as food for a tree. For this, the urn is filled with ashes, potting compost, fertilizer and a tree seed and then buried. When the seed germinates, it grows into a tree over the years, thanks to the nourishing ash. This not only compensates for CO2 emissions, the tree is also a tangible tribute to the deceased and a special place that relatives can visit.

Grave monument

Many grave monuments are made of natural stone such as granite. But this material has often been mined in an unsustainable way in remote countries such as China and India. You may instead opt for a monument that is made from a more eco-friendly material, such as wood. It is also possible to opt for a Circle Stone: you have an old monument recycled and personalized by a sculptor or stonemason. This results in a new grave monument.

Costs of an eco-friendly funeral

Recent research shows that nearly 75% of Amsterdam residents think that an eco-friendly funeral is more expensive than a funeral without eco-friendly elements. However, the difference is small in practice. The table shows a cost comparison for an average funeral without eco-friendly options and one with eco-friendly options.

Would you like more information about the options for an eco-friendly funeral? Then contact us.

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