‘Green’ funerals: The alternative ways to bid farewell to loved ones sustainably

May 12, 2023
Australia offers two eco-friendly burial options. Source: Getty

In Australia, a traditional funeral usually involves a number of key hallmarks: a coffin, flower arrangements, embaling for the deceased and a handful of other add-ons family members wish to include.

But with the current cost of living crisis, an increase in mortality rates, and the lack of burial plots in cemeteries, many people are now considering eco-friendly or “green” burials.

Per the Green Burial Council‘s website, a “green” burial “is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and preservation of habitat.”

Embalming, coffins, and even cremations can cost up to $4,000 to $15,000. Opting for an alternative option may help people save money and the environment.

The full extent of how “green” a burial is depends on the individual, however, in Australia, there are currently two methods available.

Water Cremation

According to Environmentally Friendly Cremations, Water Cremation “uses a process that is scientifically known as Alkaline Hydrolysis. During a Water Cremation, the deceased is carefully placed inside a stainless steel Water Cremation unit. This unit is then filled with water and an alkaline solution and is heated.”

The unit holds a mixture of 95 per cent water and potassium hydroxide.

The drum is then heated to about 93 degrees Celsius, after a period of several hours the water and potassium hydroxide mixture causes the human remains to liquify, leaving only the bones behind. The bones are then given to the deceased’s family members.

Unlike in the US, where the liquid remains are released into the sewage system, in Australia, they are either released out to sea or used on private property.

Shrouded cremation

As stated by the Natural Death Advocacy Network, a “shrouded cremation is one where a body is wrapped in a shroud for a cremation instead of being placed in a coffin.”

The concept of shrouded cremation isn’t new and has been embraced by a number of cultures for thousands of years.

In a shrouded cremation, the body of the deceased is wrapped in clothes usually made from natural fibres and instead of being laid in a coffin, is placed in a bearer with a solid base.

Those who wish to have a shrouded cremation have the option to do so in states such as Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania.

In New South Wales, a coffin remains mandatory for all cremations, unless special permission is obtained.


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