August 03, 2023 2 min read

Here at Ecoffins we consider ourselves funeral trendsetters. When the company first started in the late 1990’s funeral practices in the UK had very little concern for the environment. As the first sustainable coffin company we, along with the very first natural burial grounds, looked to change attitudes in the funeral profession towards greener thinking. Thankfully, things have changed and there are now more options available for funerals other than traditional burial and cremation:

- Natural Burial
Natural burial is almost a return to the practices of the distant past allowing a body to return to nature through naturally decomposing under the ground. A natural, green or eco burial involves using a shallow grave, a coffin or shroud made with natural, bio degradable materials and no permanent memorial, like a gravestone. The body cannot be embalmed and is dressed only in biodegradable clothes. Flowers and memorials should not contain plastics, chemicals or metals as well, so that the burial area remains a natural habitat for local wildlife and fauna. There are over 360 natural burial sites in the UK, which leads the world in natural burial, preserving areas such as woodlands, meadows and orchards for the benefit of future generations to visit.

- Resomation
Resomation, or water cremation, is the process of alkaline hydrolysis, which dissolves most of a body using an alkaline solution and heat. The body is wrapped in a shroud and placed into a pressurised container, which is then filled with the water and potassium (or sodium) hydroxide, and heated to 160C. Over a few hours, the body is broken down into its chemical components leaving only the liquid, which is sterile, and bones. The bones are then ground into a powder, and returned to the family, much like ashes after cremation. Resomation has a much lower energy consumption, and does not create any airborne, emissions compared to cremation. Resomation has been available in the US for a few years and now it looks like it will approved for use here in the UK.

- Human Composting
Already available in some US states human composting involves placing the body into a container with carbon-rich materials such as wood chips, along with a mix of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, which help to speed up the composting process and ensure that as much of the body is composted as possible. This container is then sealed and kept at a temperature of 50C. After a few weeks the body has completely decomposed and families can take away some of the soil to fertilise trees and flowers at their homes. The rest of the soil can be donated to help conserve natural habitats or be scattered, in the same way as cremation ashes. It is claimed that human composting saves one metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and requires only 1/8 the energy of conventional burial or cremation.

Things have certainly changed over the last few years with more emphasis being placed on environmental impacts in all aspects of life. If things can change for the better in such little time, we are hopeful for a future of more eco-friendly funerals. 

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