We all should have green funerals...
...by the way, what is a "green funeral"?
Most of us have heard the term green funeral. The idea of not participating in polluting the earth is appealing to most, but many of the “green” funeral solutions we hear about are either outlandish or impractical. Most of us cannot afford to be buried on a mountain side by sherpas.
First of all how bad are “normal” funerals? In most traditions in this country, the deceased person is buried in a casket. The casket is sometimes also placed in a concrete vault. The casket is constructed of wood and or metal and the vault is concrete and or metal. Neither is particularly dangerous to the environment, but they do take up a certain amount of space for a very long period of time.
The body itself may also be embalmed. I think this is where the specter of destroying the earth really arises and with good reason. In past centuries bodies were embalmed using mercury and arsenic. These ingredients gave phenomenal preservation results (and in many cases still do many decades later), but are extremely toxic and can eventually even contaminate groundwater.
In modern times we instead use formaldehyde and phenol compounds for embalming. Both of these organic compounds, while effective for preservation in the short-term, rapidly lose their toxicity as they break down into base alcohols and gases. Modern embalming is meant to last a reasonable amount of time then go away.
Cremation is another option that people choose to minimize ecological impact. Cremation requires only a minimal container and (after the use of fossil fuels for several hours), results in ash and steam. The ashes can then either be buried in a much smaller amount of space or simply scattered. Cremation is for most of us the “greener” choice.
Outside of traditional burials and cremation, there are other options available and some of them are very reasonable. First we can obtain caskets made using only untreated, quickly replenished materials like poplar or bamboo. Also there are cemeteries that allow burial without vaults, and some do not even require traditional caskets. The closest such cemetery is in Danbury, CT. We will coordinate with the green cemetery and work to assist you with all necessary decisions to customize the funeral to your specific needs.
As for our own part, you can imagine that hosting public funerals in our large facility is not the greenest endeavor in the world. However, at Collins Funeral Home, we just last year replaced our decades old oil heating with a state-of-the-art, 97% efficient natural gas furnace. Not only does it provide a cost savings, but it uses a renewable fuel too. We have also added insulation and begun testing and implementing several types of LED lighting. We are looking into solar power generation, and while we have not yet found a leasing program that suits our needs, we will keep trying to find smart and sustainable solutions.
by Bill Skidd, Owner, Collins Funeral Home