THE PHILOSOPHY OF GREEN FUNERALS
Natural or green burial is regarded as a statement of personal values for those who seek to minimize their impact on the local and global environment. We approach green funerals the same way that you would - how do we minimize the overall footprint of the burial?
People are genuinely concerned about preserving and protecting the earth for future generations. Naturally, they are looking for more ways to stay green, and are finding it is possible to stay green to the very end.
There is much that can be done to make a funeral green, even considering the many laws and regulations regarding burial. Green burials are feasible and gaining in popularity for several reasons:
Therese Rajotte, Founder, discusses Green Funerals
FUNERAL STATISTICS THAT WILL MAKE YOU WANT A GREEN FUNERAL
Every year we bury:
• 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid
• 90,272 tons of steels in caskets and vaults
• 2,700 tons of copper and bronze in casket linings
• 30, 000,000 board feet of hardwood, including wood from endangered forests, for caskets
• 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete burial vaults
Cremation is not environmentally friendly:
• The cremation of a single body requires up to 356 cubic feet of natural gas because humans are mostly water
• Cremation produces carbon dioxide and this exacerbates climate change
• Cremation produces sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which contribute to the formation of acid rain
• Cremation emits dioxin, which is one of the most potent toxins known
• Each cremation produces 1.6–8.5 grams of toxic mercury into the environment from cremated dental fillings (when buried with an entire body, fillings remain inert).
Statistics for US only. Sources include Mary Woodson, vice president of the Pre-Posthumous Society of Ithaca, New York reported in Mother Earth News, April/May 2003. Philip Donald Batchelder, “Dust in the Wind? The Bell Tolls for Crematory Mercury” in Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal, Vol, 2, No. 1, 2008. Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule
GREEN FUNERAL FACTS
1. Green Funerals Consume Fewer Resources: We intentionally look at ways to make the funeral lower impact. Examples include using fuel efficient vehicles, biodgradable materials, green caskets and other initiatives.
2. Green Burials Can Save Money: Another big benefit of going green is saving money. Lowering the costs of funeral prices is particularly appealing to those who are interested in pre-planning, but they can also help family members lighten the financial burden during an especially difficult time.
3. Green Burials Reduce the Use of Carcinogenic Chemicals: Traditional burial practices include embalming. However, most embalming fluids contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. While some embalming fluids are now being made without the use of potentially dangerous chemicals, it is possible to go a step further and provide for proper preservation and sanitation without the use of any harmful chemicals.
4. Green Burials Preserve Wildlife: When the trees go, so do the animals that inhabit them. Even the slightest shifts in the balance of an ecosystem can have negative and long-lasting effects on the environment. By contrast, green burials follow a strict set of practices that ensure burials do not harm ecosystems, but facilitate their restoration.
For these reasons and more, green burials are making it possible to honor the deceased without further impacting our natural resources, producing unnecessary carbon emissions, or harming workers at any stage of the funeral process.
A natural burial is accommodated as follows:
- Remains are prepared for burial without embalming and clothed or wrapped in garments made of natural, fully biodegradable fabric.
- Remains are buried in a biodegradable casket or alternative container made from sustainable wood, wicker, recycled cardboard or natural fiber.
THE GREENEST FUNERAL IN CALGARY
We recently had a burial at the Queen’s Park Cemetary where we used our ‘Hand Woven Bamboo Casket’.
The grave is opened as per standard practice, but the soil remains beside the grave during the interment service (not transported away as per conventional interment).
Following interment the sod is placed, a standard flower vase installed and the family has the option to place a permanent memorial.
If you have ideas on how we can make this a more natural event we will try to work with you on them. The Funeral Industry has significant regulations however we will try our best to accomodate your wishes and those of your loved one.
We chose bamboo for the following reasons:
1. Bamboo grows incredibly fast - Although it’s heartier than many trees, bamboo is actually a grass. In fact, it’s the fastest growing plant in the world. Bamboo’s fast growth enables frequent harvesting without causing damage to the ecosystem of bamboo forests. On average, bamboo can grow up to about 24 inches in a single day, while some species can grow nearly 48 inches. Bamboo has the potential to achieve its full height and thickness in a 3-to-4-month growing season.
2. Bamboo plants produce a high yield - In a single harvest, you can get 20 times more building material from bamboo than you can with hardwood trees. A harvest of a single bamboo stand can yield over 200 poles in 5 years, so there’s no scarcity. Bamboo’s abundance keeps prices low, making it much more affordable.
3. Bamboo is stronger than hardwood - Bamboo is stronger than steel and heartier than most hardwoods, so you know you are buying a high-quality material with high durability. Not only is it more affordable, but bamboo produces a higher quality of wood than hardwood trees do — making it a valuable building material.
4. Bamboo production creates livelihoods in impoverished countries - Bamboo grows best in tropical conditions and has the ability to provide economic sustenance to developing countries, improving stability for impoverished populations. As bamboo’s popularity increases, it offers a sustainable way of making a living — all from a grass that grows like a weed.
5. Bamboo is better for the air - Bamboo produces more oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide than trees, combating global warming with each bamboo shoot that is planted. Because the use of bamboo as a building material saves more hardwood trees from logging, the push for bamboo can help combat climate change.
6. Bamboo helps control soil erosion - Bamboo has a widespread root system as well as an enveloping canopy, which makes it a great water barrier to control soil erosion. Bamboo is widely used in a number of developing countries to protect crops and villages from washing away. Bamboo’s high nitrogen consumption helps mitigate water pollution, and its roots are good for the soil.
7. Once buried, they will biodegrade within 2-3 years
No Embalming is done in green funerals, the body is preserved for viewing through refrigeration. Though the Environmental Protection Agency regards formaldehyde as a "probable" carcinogen, other international agencies, including the World Health Organization, consider it a far more dangerous chemical. Embalming fluid containing formaldehyde has the potential to seep into ground water. Embalming is unnecessary for viewing and provides no public health benefits.
Bodies are not embalmed because it also delays decomposition. Without formaldehyde to preserve the body, toxic chemicals are avoided, reducing harmful exposure both to nature and the embalmer. Instead, bodies are wrapped in a biodegradable shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket.
Liners and Vaults – Many funeral homes will insist that you purchase a liner or a vault to preserve the body. A vault is essentially a large box made of concrete. Originally developed to deter grave robbers in the late 18th century, vaults are sold
OUR GREEN PHILOSOPHY
At Elegant Tributes we are the greenest Funeral Home in Southern Alberta. We have incorporated a small footprint philosophy in how we approach our business. This approach is more friendly to the environment and it is an Elegant way to do business!
Our planning center is 80% smaller than most funeral homes. Instead of maintaining a large chapel, big garages and other infrastructure - we use buildings that are already in use like hotels and restaurants. The result is a small cozy atmosphere that has the feeling of being at home rather than a big institution.
We chose to import from Europe the fuel efficient Mercedes Benz hearse. This is a smaller and lighter vehicle compared to the large Lincolns and Cadillacs that are commonly used. The Mercedes Benz legendary reliability and durability means we can use the vehicle for a longer period than the industry average.
We have lots of ideas on how we can be even more Green. The nearest term plan is to install solar panels on our roof to reduce our electricity consumption.
We promise to listen to your ideas and do our best to make them happen. You can trust us to respect your Green Values!