Five things you might not know about having a greener funeral

Poppy's team with our Wandsworth best green business award
Our Wandsworth best green business award

Four minute read

As part of our journey towards becoming a B Corp, Poppy’s is greening up every aspect of our business, including recycling more of our waste, using rainwater to wash our vehicles and making sure all the products we use around our HQ are sustainably produced. Of course, this also extends to the choices we offer our clients.

We’ve also noticed a rise in questions about greener funeral choices over the last few months. So, we thought it was a good time to share a few things you might not know about having a greener funeral.

1. Funerals have a significant impact.

According to recent research by independent certification body Planet Mark, the estimated carbon emissions per funeral in the UK can amount to 500kg of CO2e. That’s the equivalent of charging more than 60,000 smartphones or driving from London to Inverness and back.

While this sounds worrying, it also means that every funeral choice we make that reduces carbon emissions, has a positive impact.

2. Not all coffins are equal.

Planet Mark also reviewed the available evidence to assess a range of coffins and find out which is the most environmentally friendly choice for cremation. This is currently the most robust and transparent research produced into coffin emissions, and we hope will lay the groundwork for future studies.

Planet Mark carried out a Life Cycle Analysis of all the coffins listed. This means they looked at the emissions produced from the start of a coffin's manufacture to after its cremation.

While biodegradable bags, which account for less than 1kg of CO2e when used for a cremation, are by far the most sustainable choice, other green options are available too. Cardboard coffins and solid pine coffins also performed well in the research.

While this research did not cover the use of coffins for burial, options like wool and wicker provide a low carbon option for burial when materials are sourced and manufactured within the UK.

3. While natural burial is best, new tech brings new choices.

The Planet Mark report, commissioned by Full Circle Funerals and funded by contributions from other interested parties including Poppy’s, also examined the impact of methods of committal.

Natural burial, because it allows decomposition through a natural process, generates minimal release of CO2 into the atmosphere — the carbon is sequestered into other living organisms.

However, because natural burial grounds are often located outside of cities, the emissions caused by travelling to the funeral and by later visits, must also be considered.

Natural gas cremation has the highest carbon footprint for the energy consumption stage of the life cycle. In addition to this, the air pollution associated with cremation is likely to be significant.

However, improvements in technology can help mitigate this problem. For example, Lambeth Cemetery, where Poppy’s HQ is based, has replaced its gas cremator with an electric one, powered by renewable energy.

We will also be watching with interest as alkaline hydrolysis, also known as water cremation, starts to be used in the UK. The Planet Mark research showed that this process generates lower carbon emissions than traditional cremation.

4. There are many factors to weigh up.

At Poppy’s, when we are assessing new products — whether coffins, flowers, urns or hearses — we examine a range of factors.

Firstly, the materials that products are made from, and whether these have been produced in a way which minimises harm to people and planet. For example, Life Art enviroboard coffins use waste products from logging which would otherwise be thrown away.

Then, the location that the materials come from. The more miles that they travel to reach Poppy’s, the more carbon emissions are likely to have been produced. That’s one reason why we love working with UK suppliers, like Bellacouche, Lilian’s Flowers or Musgrove Willows.

We also look at the energy consumption in manufacturing or using the products. Offering the option of a bicycle hearse or an electric hearse means that we can help people reduce carbon emissions from funeral transport too.

5. Making greener choices doesn’t have to be hard.

We want to make it as easy as possible for people to make the choices that are right for them, by providing clear, accessible information when you talk to us and when you look at our website.

Our new ‘greener choices’ catalogue section brings together all our most eco-friendly products, and in most cases, includes extra information about where those products are sourced, what they are made from and how they are manufactured.

We’re pleased that interest in these products continues to grow. However, we’re not stopping here. We’re always on the look-out for ways to make improvements and to help you arrange a greener funeral.

Find out more about planning an eco-friendly funeral.

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