Eco funerals
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Green Burials and Eco Funerals are becoming popular!

The landscape of funerals in South Africa has shifted immensely since the beginning of the pandemic. Not only has there been a reduction in how many people can attend funerals and memorial services (a restriction prominent due to the pandemic), but now more often people are considering ‘green burials’ otherwise known as ‘eco funerals’ to best fit their farewells. 

In today’s world, everyone is more concerned about their own carbon footprint, and there is increasing pressure and awareness surrounding the emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere. So it comes as no surprise that more and more people are considering environmentally friendly or greener options regarding the imprint they leave behind when they pass on. This blog will take you through just what exactly it means to have a greener funeral… 

Although conventional burials (with normal coffins and all the traditions that come along with that individual's culture) are still by far the most popular way of laying loved ones to rest, there has been an increase in those choosing flame-based cremation as an option. Now, this is not necessarily what we mean when we say a ‘green funeral’ but many claim that this is more environmentally friendly than alternative options. 

The reason this has become more popular can be attributed to many different reasons, including cemeteries running out of physical burial space, as well as growing secularism among certain cultures. However, flame-based cremation as a funeral option does, unfortunately, add to the carbon footprints as the cremation process does make use of certain fossil fuels, as well as the release of mainly carbon monoxide into the air. 

As mentioned earlier, there is a heightened awareness of the negative impact of carbon emissions has on the globe, and together with a wider trend towards having more personalised funerals, the demand for more eco-friendly alternatives as opposed to the more traditional ways of doing funerals has increased. 

What is an Eco- funeral or Green Burial?

It is important to remember that having an environmentally friendly funeral is not an event set in stone, every difference you can make in attempting to be more considerate to the environment should be commended. An eco-friendly funeral or green burial essentially involves all aspects of a funeral leaning towards lowering the person's overall carbon footprint. This consists of the funeral/memorial service itself and the process of disposing of the body which may incorporate the use of eco-friendly products. 

What is mainly seen in such funerals includes as follows: 

  • A small service (regarding the number of guests present) that will lower the carbon emissions of transport to and from the service. 
  • Sharing transport among mourners, the encouragement for individuals to carpool and share travel arrangements is important in these funerals. 
  • With regards to a burial, using a casket or coffin made of biodegradable materials is important. 
  • Wrapping the deceased individual’s body in a shroud that is made of unbleached natural fabric like cotton or silk. 
  • Making use of recycled paper products for the funeral programme.  
  • Not embalming the individual's deceased body (which previously makes use of formaldehyde fluid that is toxic to the environment). 
  • Using natural tombstones such as flat rocks or natural stone or even special plants or trees as grave markers. 

All of these factors are effective ways to make sure that your loved one has a dignified send-off whilst still being considerate of the environmental impacts of having a burial service. 

Another green option that is being widely considered overseas is a process called recompositing. This is where human remains are gently converted into soil and compost. This is closely linked to the Infinity Burial Suit or mushroom burial suit which is a biodegradable garment that is worn by the deceased. This suit has a built-in bio-mix made up of mushrooms and other microorganisms that aid in decomposition, work to neutralise toxins found in the body and transfer nutrients to plant life in the surroundings of the deceased body. 

How do you choose the best funeral cover in South Africa? Find out how.

Green Burial and Eco-funerals in South Africa

South Africa's first Green Burial site was established a few years ago near Stellenbosch, surrounded by beautiful winelands in the Western Cape. The Wiesenhof Legacy Park is a 300-hectare privately-owned nature reserve, which offers burial plots and memorialisation areas for ash scattering to South Africans. 

The site is wild and it’s indigenous vegetation creates a natural habitat for wildlife, which includes zebra and springbok.  On this massive plot, only 10 hectares are used for burials. 

"While traditional cemeteries have up to 80% of a site covered with graves, our difference is conservation,” says CEO of Legacy Parks, Willie Fouche.

The deceased bodies and ashes will be interred in caskets made from only biodegradable materials. These materials include wicker, and all the burial sites will only be marked with simple, flat stone markers or trees planted by relatives. Ashes can be scattered together with wildflower seeds, making for a beautiful long-lasting display of growth in wildflowers should family and friends visit the site in months to come.

A green burial and Eco-funeral is not necessarily a cheap affair. To buy a resting space in this natural burial site in Stellenbosch Legacy Parks charge around R1500 for an ash scattering, while a prime plot for a green burial goes for around R28 000. However, if you consider other options, a traditional burial truly isn't cheap either. A typical funeral with all the bells and whistles -including an ostentatious coffin and headstone-  can easily cost around R30 000 or more!  This is not the only Eco-funeral and Green burial option for South Africans, with new spaces emerging in Gauteng and across South Africa. 

Whilst thinking about one's funeral might not be the most pleasant experience, considering what impact you want to have on the environment might be something you look forward to achieving. Minimalizing environmental footprints in this process, and like they say from dust unto dust, you may consider  Green burials and eco-funerals as an option for yourself or a loved one.