More and more families are demanding greener alternatives when it comes to the planning their own, or the funeral of a loved one. As far back as 2007, organizations such as AARP were finding that as many as 21% of over 50 year olds were interested in a more environmentally friendly end-of-life ritual.
This is no surprise, since over the past couple of decades consumers have demanded more unique and personalized funeral services. They have moved away from the tradition of religion based, formal funerals that included embalming, metal caskets and vaults designed to preserve the body.
Much of this has been driven by the increased mobility of our society, but also adding to this tremendously, is the greening of everything around us. With population growth exploding and demand on the earth’s resources coming under stress, consumers in every industry are demanding more natural and environmentally-friendly products and services. Whether it is organic products at grocery stores, hybrid vehicles at car dealerships or frequent flyers paying for carbon emission offsets when they purchase an airline ticket, everyone is more conscious of the environment.
It is no surprise then that when a loved one dies, family members search for more natural alternatives as they plan the funeral. AGreenerFuneral.org has been designed to help these families learn about ways in which they can create a greener sendoff for a loved one. The site educates families in an un-biased manner about ways in which they can either incorporate “elements of green” into a funeral or ways to conduct an entirely green funeral. It provides direct links to funeral homes and cemeteries that are able to cater to requests for greener funerals.
As I talk to families and funeral directors, I find that not surprisingly, most families want to incorporate what I call an “element of green”. What I mean by this is that they will choose not to embalm a body and purchase a wicker casket but still bury in a vault at traditional cemetery. They may select a biodegradable urn after cremation, or want a memorial book crafted by hand from sustainably produced paper. Much of this is often for practical reasons; such as having a loved one already buried at a traditional cemetery or they already own a plot at a particular cemetery. This may not always be the greenest funeral that they could have had, but it is enough for that family given the practical limitations.
The other limiting factor to a greener funeral is the availability of cemeteries that will allow a greener funeral and funeral homes that stock natural products. As families demand greener products and services, funeral homes will be forced to cater to this consumer shift to remain relevant. Those funeral businesses that don’t adapt and embrace the change will find that consumers seek out their competitors or look for alternative start-up businesses.