Dying to be green – eco funerals

young familyI’ve been thinking about death recently. Not exactly your average dining room table conversation I know, but as they say, death is the only certainty in life.

I was thinking about all the ‘stuff’ that goes with dying, not to mention the toxic chemicals. It seems unthinkable that you could live a wonderfully ‘green’ life and then end up chopping down a tree for your coffin and being embalmed in formaldehyde.

Sky burial

If I had my way, I’d have a sky burial – I love to think of my body becoming food for animals and nourishment for the earth. It seems so much more fitting for my personal beliefs and life journey and I love the idea of giving something back to the earth that has sustained me.

Alas that’s not legal in this country (but as my nine year old reminds me, it could be by the time I die. And bless her, she’s already agreed to plant roses and trees on top of me!)

Eco friendly funeral

Fortunately, personalised and eco-friendly funerals are now increasingly fashionable. In celebration of life, the National Coffin Exhibition ‘Handled With Care’ takes place Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 July 2010 at Chiltern Woodland Burial Park near Beaconsfield, Bucks – the UK’s largest mature woodland cemetery.

Organised by the British Institute of Funeral Directors (BIFD), the organisers want to break down the barriers that prevent people from making practical plans, while they’re still very much alive and well.

National coffin exhibition

While it might not be your usual weekend entertainment of choice, it makes sense to have your wishes known to those who will be left to organise things for you; especially if you have strong values concerning the environment. When you think that 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid is buried in the United States each year and the energy used to cremate one body is enough to drive 4,800 miles and then you add 30 million feet of hardwoods for coffins, plus all the other metals and toxic substances that we burn or bury, there’s a lot to think about!

Woodland burials

As Woodland Burial Park Manager Fran Hall said “We don’t live identikit lives so why should we have identikit funerals? Families find great comfort in being able to personalise funerals and this event is all about making people more aware of the choices that are available.

“As a woodland cemetery we hope the event will particularly appeal to those interested in green funerals. There will be a large selection of environmentally friendly coffins on display and visitors will be able to see at first hand how we provide families with a natural alternative to traditional funerals.”

Alternative coffins

Coffins on display will include those made from recycled newspaper, hand-woven willow, wool, hardwood, bamboo, traditional timber and over-printed board – including a topical soccer themed model for football fans.

The event is open both days from 10am to 4pm and entry is free.

Anita Roddick, Lynn Redgrave and Wendy Richards are among high profile personalities to have chosen alternative coffins.

What about you – have you given your funeral any thought?


  1. Neil on July 8, 2010 at 10:49 am

    We have a large garden here and have gardened organically for many years.

    So we would love to be buried in it some time long into the future 🙂
    Planting a tree on top will help ensure we soon become part of the surrounding environment.

    Our only concern is thinking of a way to stop future inhabitants who think they are not worried about someone buried in the garden becoming squeemish later on. It has been known to happen then they get permission to exhume and rebury the body, which defeats the whole object of the exercise.


  2. Mrs Green on August 7, 2010 at 6:56 am

    @Neil: Hi Neil, sounds like the idea I have in mind too – being buried in the family garden with a tree on top. Would be great, but like you say, you have to think of future tenants 😉