Tackling climate change: A matter of death and life

Eco-friendly coffin being carried by horse and cart through wildflower meadow

Three minute read

Before I came to work at Poppy’s as the content editor for this blog, I worked on climate change. I resourced and supported groups and volunteers to cut their carbon footprints, to talk to their communities about climate change and to lobby their MPs to change systems and policies.

I celebrated with campaigners under the Eiffel Tower when governments signed the landmark Paris Climate Agreement at COP21 in 2015. And I marched alongside my daughter on the streets of London at the youth climate strike.

I’ve watched the climate movement grow from a fringe concern to a mass realisation that climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity.

But in all the conversations I've had about living a greener life, I don’t recall anyone mentioning the possibility of having a greener death.

A greener death?

That’s why I’m so excited that Poppy’s is hosting a panel to discuss eco-friendly funerals on 23 September 2021 as part of Great Big Green Week. It’s a crucial time to open up these conversations, just before the COP26 climate summit takes place in the UK. Watch a recording of the event here.

However, an interest in eco-friendly funerals is nothing new.

Back in 1993, Ken West developed the world’s first natural burial ground in Carlisle. Nearly three decades on, there are now over 270 natural burial sites across the UK. These vary enormously, but can include wildflower meadows, parkland or woodland, and enable the body to return to the earth as naturally as possible.

Ken is still campaigning for change within the funeral sector. We are delighted that he’ll be sharing his experience on our expert panel.

New ideas

Natural burial faced scepticism and opposition at first, as many new ideas do. But innovation is vital to shake up our thinking, push boundaries and provide new answers to old problems. Katrina Spade, who joins our panel from Seattle, is one such innovator.

Katrina is the founder and CEO of Recompose, a company which uses an environmentally-friendly process to convert human remains into soil. Not only does this process have the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions but, in Katrina’s words, it also has a role in “connecting the grieving person and the dying person to nature”.

Read our full interview with Katrina here.

Sustainable choices

Big ideas like natural burial and human composting are exciting and important, even if controversial at first. They move us forward with urgency and vision to respond to a global crisis.

But there are smaller steps we can take too. There are choices we can all make.

At Poppy’s we are striving to make better choices every day. Choices like using calico instead of plastic to line coffins, powering our HQ with renewable electricity and seeking to measure and reduce our waste. These are all part of our journey to become a B Corp.

We also open up choices for clients — offering environmentally-friendly products and ideas, which are meaningful and beautiful. These include woollen, bamboo or willow coffins, electric-powered vehicles and sourcing local and seasonal flowers. Poppy’s client support adviser and our B Corp lead Sarah Bax will be joining Ken and Katrina on the panel too.

Leaving a legacy

Tackling climate change requires every sector, every business and every person to step up. Although we are feeling the impacts of climate change already, it’s not too late to make changes. It’s our actions today — for good or ill — that will leave a legacy for future generations.

So where better to start addressing the life and death issues that climate change raises, than by considering the choices we make about our own lives, and deaths? We need everyone’s ideas, so please come and join the conversation.

Watch a recording of our online panel here.

Don’t miss our blog on how to plan an eco-friendly funeral.

Find out more about the thousands of events that took place during the Great Big Green Week (18-26 September)

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